BJP Strongholds in Bengal's Jangal Mahal Region Set for Sixth Phase Polls
BJP Strongholds in Bengal's Jangal Mahal Region Set for Sixth Phase Polls

The Jangal Mahal region, known as Bengal's tribal belt comprising five districts, will go to the polls in the sixth phase on Saturday. This area is a hotbed of identity politics and sends eight representatives to the Lok Sabha from seats including Tamluk, Kanthi, Ghatal, Jhargram, Medinipur, Purulia, Bankura, and Bishnupur.

In the 2019 polls, the BJP secured five of these seats, while the TMC won three, with Ghatal being a stronghold represented by two-time MP and cine star Dev aka Dipak Adhikari.

Political dynamics have shifted, especially in Purba Medinipur district, home to Tamluk and Kanthi Lok Sabha seats, which were captured by the TMC in 2019. However, the balance tilted in favor of the BJP following Suvendu Adhikari's switch in 2021, despite the TMC's efforts to regain ground through welfare schemes aimed at tribal Kurmi and Mahato communities.

Kanthi and Tamluk constituencies are notable for their dynasty politics, dominated by Suvendu Adhikari and his family, who hold significant political influence in the region.

The upcoming elections will test the endurance of dynasty politics, revealing whether the Adhikari family's support base crosses party lines and assessing the sustainability of their political legacy.

Observers note that Kanthi and Tamluk present a unique electoral landscape compared to other constituencies in the state, with a clear choice between supporting the BJP's national agenda or the TMC government's local welfare initiatives.

Soumendu Adhikari, Suvendu's brother, is contesting from Kanthi, considered a BJP stronghold, while in Tamluk, former Calcutta High Court judge Abhijit Gangopadhyay is contesting against TMC's Debangshu Bhattacharya.

In Jhargram, Purulia, and Medinipur seats, the BJP faces challenges, particularly after unrest in the Kurmi community, which plays a crucial role in these constituencies and has been advocating for ST status.

Though the days of Maoist violence in this region may be behind, identity politics remains a key factor influencing the elections, with the Kurmi community demanding ST status, leading to occasional clashes with Adivasis, who already hold ST status.

Both BJP and TMC are navigating this carefully, with the TMC establishing a state Tribal Development Board and nominating members from the Mahato and Kurmi communities.

The BJP is also dealing with internal dissent, as seen with Kunar Hembram, an MP from Jhargram, defecting to the TMC.

In Medinipur, BJP MLA Agnimitra Paul is challenging TMC MLA and actor June Malia, while in Bankura, concerns over the renomination of Union minister Subhas Sarkar have surfaced, despite the BJP winning four of the seven assembly seats in the last election.

In Bishnupur, the BJP has faith in its sitting MP Saumitra Khan to retain the seat.

A total of 1.45 crore voters, including 73.63 lakh men, 71.70 lakh women, and 133 third-gender persons, are eligible to vote in 15,600 polling stations in this penultimate phase, where more than 1,000 companies of central forces will be deployed.

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