The battle for Bengal's 42 seats is proving one of the toughest this election, with the BJP aiming for 23 seats and chief minister Mamata Banerjee determined not to cede any. This is the most polarised election the state has seen, where the bulk of sparring has been between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee. The BJP, however, has left nothing to chance. Party chief Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath have also campaigned regularly in the state.
Traditionally, the BJP has a minimal presence in Bengal, where the main battle initially was between the Congress and the Left - which ruled the state for 35 years - and later, the Trinamool and the Left. Over the last few years, the BJP has carved out a political space larger than the Congress and the Left, though in terms of seats, it has just two from the state in the Lok Sabha and three in the assembly.
Between 1996 and 2014, The Trinamool and the Congress have swapped places in terms of vote share, shows data from previous elections. In 1996, the Congress had 40 per cent of the votes in the state. In the 2014 election, it was the Trinamool that had 40 per cent of the votes and the Congress was reduced to 10 per cent.
What makes the Bengal election interesting this time is a voter population that is sharply divided along the lines of age group, religion, caste and gender.
Trends analysed by Prannoy Roy and his team show that the Muslim votes are significantly divided in Bengal, where their population is twice (28 per cent) that of the rest of India (14 per cent).
In the last national election, the Trinamool Congress won 40 per cent of the Muslim votes, the Left 30 per cent, the Congress 20 per cent and the rest, eight per cent.
In this election, trends show that the Muslim vote is less divided. The Trinamool, which is seen to have taken a number of measures for Muslim voters, is likely to have 70 per cent of the community's votes, show trends. The Congress has 20 per cent and the Left has just five per cent.
The Muslim population in Bengal is spread across the state instead of pockets. Data shows that Mamata Banerjee's party has done better in seats that don't have a high Muslim population. In 2014, the Trinamool won 27 per cent of the votes in seats where there were more than 20 per cent Muslims.
With the BJP's aggressive campaign and efforts to make inroads in the state, the Trinamool may face a Hindu consolidation backlash, say analysts.
As for the bellwether seats, those which have voted the same way as the winner in the state, there are eight in Bengal - Birbhum, Hooghly, Barrackpur, Uluberia, Basirhat, Tamluk, Diamond Harbour and Mathurapur.
Asansol, a seat that had made headlines over its high profile candidates - Union Minister Babul Supriyo and Trinamool's Moon Moon Sen - is the "Ulta (reverse) bellwether", which means it has never voted the same way as the winner. So is Darjeeling.
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