With the Lok Sabha elections being in the last leg, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of West Bengal has sensed that the BJP has gained ground in the state, possibly at the cost of the Left, due to polarization efforts of the saffron party.
The state, which has witnessed the most bitter electioneering this time between the TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party, will have polling on the remaining nine of the 42 Lok Sabha seats on Sunday, the seventh and last phase of elections.
The TMC, which swept the 2014 general elections in the state by bagging 34 Lok Sabha seats, is unsure about repeating the same performance this time.
According to a senior TMC leader, the Left votes will be the key factor this time to determine how many seats the Mamata Banerjee-led party would get in the ongoing elections.
In the 2014 polls, the TMC had increased its tally by 15 seats over the 2009 election results by wresting seats from the Left Front.
The Left parties had won only two seats, which was a decrease of 13 seats it had bagged in the 2009 elections.
The BJP had won two Lok Sabha seats in 2014, up from one which it got the previous time.
In these polls, the TMC got a vote share of 39.05 per cent, up by 8.13 per cent from the previous elections.
The BJP had got 17.02 per cent votes, an increase of 10.88 per cent from the 2009 elections.
The TMC hopes to win 30 seats in the state this time but feels that if even 10 per cent of Left votes swing towards the BJP, then its tally could drop as low as 25, meaning a loss of 19 seats from the last time.
There is an assessment in the party that the leaders of Left parties themselves might be asking their supporters to vote for the BJP, since they feel they cannot defeat the TMC and that the BJP was in a better position to do so, the TMC leader said.
The TMC feels that polarization efforts of the BJP were helping the saffron party and it could gain in some 15 seats having Hindu majority. So the tally of BJP could go up to even 10 seats, the TMC feels.
The BJP has gone all out to make electoral gains in West Bengal, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself holding several rallies. Party chief Amit Shah has also addressed many public meetings besides holding road shows in the state.
The state has witnessed the most bitter election campaign this time, which was accompanied by violence during all the six phases of polling.
The latest episode of violence was witnessed during a road show of Amit Shah on Tuesday, with the statue of Ishwar Chandra Bandyopadhyay, an icon of West Bengal, being vandalised.
In view of the violence, the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday took an unprecedented step of curtailing poll campaign in the state by a day as it ordered stoppage of poll campaigning from 10 p.m. on Thursday in the remaining nine Lok Sabha constituencies.
The campaigning would have normally ended at 5 p.m. on Friday along with 50 other seats across six other states and one Union Territory.
The EC also removed with immediate effect the state's Principal Secretary (Home) Atri Bhattacharya for "having interfered" in the poll process and relieved controversial IPS officer Rajeev Kumar from his post of ADG CID, with orders to report for duty in the Union Home Ministry in New Delhi at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
The poll body invoked for the first time Article 324 of the Constitution which gives it special powers to control and give directions for holding elections.
The decisions have been "taken as an action on violence in West Bengal on Tuesday", an EC official told the media about the action .
"This is probably the first time that ECI has invoked Article 324 in this manner but it may not be the last in case of repetition of lawlessness and violence which vitiate the conduct of polls in a peaceful manner," the official said.
The constituencies going to polls on May 19 are Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata (South) and Kolkata (North).