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BJP changes Bengal campaign strategy, will now target Congress to ensure three-way contest

Congress is strong in a number of seats in last 4 phases, and if its alliance with Left & cleric Abbas Siddiqui takes some anti-BJP vote, it’ll impact Mamata’s TMC.

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New Delhi: The BJP has decided to change its strategy for the West Bengal assembly election campaign for the last four phases of between 17 and 29 April.

It is concerned that so far, all the anti-BJP votes seem to be going to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress en masse, and has thus decided to target the Congress to ensure that the latter’s ‘Sanjukta Morcha’ alliance with the Left and Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui’s Indian Secular Front seems like a viable alternative too. A triangular contest, the BJP believes, would suit it better.

Sources in the BJP told ThePrint that the shift in the strategy is also necessitated by the fact that the next few phases feature some seats that are considered Congress strongholds. The seats are concentrated in a few districts such as Murshidabad, Malda, North Dinajpur and some other parts of north Bengal, and voting is set to take place in the last three phases.

Also read: How BJP is using Mamata’s ‘outsider’ jibe to pit Bengali vs non-Bengali & pull the votes

‘TMC our main competition, but division of votes will help us’

So far in the West Bengal campaign, top BJP leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party president J.P. Nadda have chiefly targeted CM Mamata Banerjee, and have hardly mentioned the Congress.

“Overall, the TMC is our main competition. But the next few phases include some seats where the Congress has fielded strong candidates, and some areas that are their traditional vote-bank,” said a senior BJP leader from West Bengal who didn’t wish to be named.

“A division of non-BJP votes between the TMC and the Congress alliance will in fact help us improve our position,” the leader said.

Another senior leader confirmed that in the remaining four phases, the BJP would attack both the Congress and the TMC. “Consolidation of anti-BJP votes chiefly in the favour of the TMC will help Mamata. The next few phases include constituencies that are traditional seats of the Congress. They even have sitting MLAs, so it is important that on those seats, we have a triangular contest so that votes get split and we can benefit from it,” the leader said.

“There are a number of constituencies that are Muslim-dominated, and a triangular contest will divide the minority vote which Mamata Banerjee is counting on. Siddiqui’s ISF also becomes an alternative for the voters. In around 70 constituencies that will go to the polls in the last few phases, there is a 30-40 per cent minority vote and both the Sanjukta Morcha and the TMC are eyeing the anti-BJP vote,” the leader added.

Rahul & Priyanka to campaign

Members of the Congress’ Gandhi family have so far not featured in the Bengal campaign, but that is also set to change in the upcoming phases.

“A schedule is being prepared and both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will address rallies in the state. The next phases are crucial for us,” a senior Congress leader told ThePrint.

Campaigning for the fourth phase of polls, which will take place Saturday, has already concluded.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Bengal has made up its mind, Mamata is on her way out: BJP chief Nadda


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