Firstpost Q&A: Understanding Bengal's political climate with analyst Jai Mrug

On the final day of the West Bengal Assembly Elections, a Q and A session was held on Firstpost's Facebook page with Jai Mrug – a political analyst who has been following and analyzing elections in the country since 1998. The West Bengal Assembly Polls, being conducted in six phases will conclude on Thursday.

Jai Mrug, senior political analyst.

Jai Mrug, senior political analyst.

People engaged with Mrug in an hour-long session, asking pertinent questions about alliances, post-poll prospects, power dynamics and all the issues that have come to define this election. Mrug conveyed that the BJP stands a chance in North Bengal and Paraganas mostly because the "North Bengal Border regions have a sizeable number of Hindu refugee descendants, who came from East Bengal, that makes it a fertile ground for the BJP, which has even relaxed conditions for them to obtain a long-term residency. The BJP did have an urban momentum as well, but not being the principal opponent often harms you in a race which turns bipolar.”

Answering questions about the state's political atmosphere, especially if Bengal was a "hyper-politicised state like it used to be?" Mrug stated that Bengal happens to be a state where "politics permeate every aspect of life" — however, politics, he said became less "Kolkata-centric" and now revolve around the "rural muscle" of the Trinamool and the Left. He expanded: "Rural Muscle means an access to the inner annals of rural Bengal through party machinery as well as a well-spread out organization. It was this that kept the Left going for many years in rural Bengal. Mamata has built a similar soft infra now." Adding to this, when asked if tactics such as intimidation and violence were being used as part of elections, he left the question rather open-ended and said, "They are now being brought under control by the EC."

The alliance between Congress and the Left in West Bengal dominated the discussion — “The alliance was necessitated by the need of the Left and the Congress to fight for survival, they have aligned in other states before such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Congress could benefit more as the Left has a committed cadre vote that it can transfer, however the same may not hold true of the Congress for the Left,” said Mrug.

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The session wound up with a couple of questions on Mamata Bannerjee — especially about how campaigns have all ended up being ‘Mamata-slandering’ or what kind of leader Mrug believed she could be. "The issue has become personality-centric as it is Mamata vs the rest. Yet I do believe in some ways the condition of tea garden labourers as well as corruption have become poll issues. The Congress lacking a charismatic face as an alternate to Mamata has made it a sort of personality vs no personality contest," he said.

Mrug concluded the discussion and said that it was a close contest when it came to campaigns, and there is a chance she might enjoy the lead as the alliance had a delayed entry. He added Mamata has unmatched ground connect and charisma, but could be ‘populist over the board.’


Published Date: May 05, 2016 03:30 pm | Updated Date: May 18, 2016 07:04 pm


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