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Snakes and ladders: On competitive West Bengal Assembly polls

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Meanings are given in BOLD

Soaring ( to rise very fast ) political rhetoric ( a way of speaking or writing that is intended to impress or influence people but is not always sincere ) has already set the tone for an intensely ( with extreme force or strength ) competitive Assembly election in West Bengal. The ferocity ( violence ) of the combat ( engage in a fight with; oppose in battle ) between the ruling Trinamool Congress and the challenger BJP is set to go further north. T

he BJP’s dramatic rise in 2019, when its vote tally crossed 40%, made its ambitions ( a strong desire to do or achieve something ) for power realistic, but also prompted ( (of an event or fact) cause or bring about (an action or feeling)) drastic ( likely to have a strong or far-reaching effect; radical and extreme ) corrective measures by the Trinamool, which has been in power since 2011.

The BJP has been trying to overcome its leadership deficiency by recruiting defectors, primarily from the TMC. It still cannot match the ground game of the Left Front that is in alliance ( a relationship based on similarity of interests, nature, or qualities ) with the Congress and the ISF under the new umbrella of the Sanjukta Morcha. The Morcha’s rally on February 28 was not surpassed ( exceed; be greater than ) by the BJP’s on March 7, which was addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is leading from the front.

The absence of a recognisable ( able to be recognized or identified from previous encounters or knowledge ) chief ministerial candidate, and its patchy ( not of the same quality throughout; inconsistent ) presence in much of the State are challenges to the BJP, but winning this election is within its reach. A large segment of the BJP voters remain silent and could mobilise ( organize and encourage (a group of people) to take collective action in pursuit of a particular objective ) themselves, if one goes by the 2019 experience. The dynamics of politics has changed since then, with new factors at play.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has rolled out new welfare schemes and reached out to regions and social groups that tilted ( change or cause to change in favour of one person or thing as opposed to another ) towards the BJP. By declaring her candidacy from Nandigram, where she will take on former colleague Suvendu Adhikari who defected to the BJP, she has shown that she is on the offensive.

The violence and corruption by her party cadres ( a small group of people who are specially chosen and trained for a particular purpose ) meanwhile continue to shadow her spirited ( full of energy, determination and courage ) fight, and that is going to be a focal ( central; very important; connected with or providing a focus ) point of the BJP offensive. Mr. Modi’s speech on Sunday called for a regime change.

The second prong ( each of the separate parts of an attack, argument, etc. that somebody uses to achieve something ) of the BJP strategy is communal polarisation, which seems to have been assigned to second-rung leaders who are frequently making not-so-veiled references and insinuations ( an unpleasant hint or suggestion of something bad ) about dangers posed by Muslims. Ms. Banerjee’s appeal among Muslim voters could be unsettled by the mainstreaming of the Muslim outfit that goes by the misleading name of the Indian Secular Front by the Left Front.

The Left has always accused the BJP and the TMC of competitive communalism but its new tactic ( an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end ) has thrown open various possibilities. If the Morcha claims a segment of the anti-incumbency ( the holding of an office or the period during which one is held ) votes, it will weaken the BJP; if it splits TMC votes, it will help the BJP.

And if a sharp communal polarisation emerges, it could benefit the TMC and the BJP. It was for drama effect that actor Mithun Chakraborty, who joined the BJP on Sunday, likened himself to a cobra that can kill in one strike ( accidentally hit (a part of one’s body) against something ), but disconcerting ( causing one to feel unsettled ) signs of violence are writ ( one’s power to enforce compliance or submission; one’s authority ) large in West Bengal. Violent language easily translates to violent action, as Bengal’s history has shown over the years.

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