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Clashes erupt between BJP, TMC to capture Bengal’s tribal belt

The battle between TMC and BJP is growing fiercer with both parties locking horns for tribal votes in the sixth phase on May 12, as four of the eight constituencies going to polls are in the tribal belt. The constituencies — Jhargram, Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia — are witnessing heated campaign with none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee leading the charge from both sides.

The erosion of CPM-led Left Front and Congress votes to BJP, TMC camps have further made the verdict unpredictable.

Public meetings by PM Modi and CM Mamata in Bankura and Purulia on Thursday also saw a heated exchange of words, with the former saying he has got used to all the ill-wishes and profanity by CM Banerjee. “Didi has kept ‘pathhar’ and ‘thappar’ for me. With time, I’ve developed the strength to digest all of Didi’s abusive words. But Didi now is insulting the Constitution, she says she doesn’t acknowledge the Indian Prime Minister but has a lot of joy acknowledging the Pakistani Prime Minister,” Modi said.

The tribal population in Bengal according to 2011 census is 52,96,963, which is about 5.80 of the total population of Bengal, and 5.08 per cent of the tribal population of the country.

During the panchayat elections in 2018, BJP won 25 gram panchayats and two panchayat samitis, three seats out of 16 Zila Parishad seats in Jhargram district. In Purulia, it won nine Zila Parishad out of 38 seats. In West Midnapore, BJP had come to power in one panchayat samiti and 21 gram panchayats out of 211.

Political scientists say BJP has a strong chance of winning Jhargram provided there is a free and fair poll.

“BJP managed to give TMC the biggest jolt in Jhargram. There is a discontent among people in general regarding rampant corruption and Maoist issues. They feel those Maoist leaders who were at one point of time terrorised the area is at present same people who have dropped arms and become TMC leaders,” said political analyst and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, Biswanath Chakraborty.

He said during panchayat polls, some villagers had formed groups and put up strong resistance and they will score if that kind of resistance could be repeated.

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