11:25 GMT18 April 2021
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    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) poses a major challenge to Mamata Banerjee, state chief of West Bengal since 2011, to retain her government for a third consecutive term. Several state chiefs in the past have accused the Narendra Modi government of partial treatment while distributing funds for development from the federal budget.

    Mamata Banerjee, a staunch critic of the Narendra Modi-led government, has urged the country's major opposition leaders to join forces against the BJP, which is undermining the democracy and cooperative federalism of the country. The West Bengal state chief has sent a three-page letter to 14 non-BJP leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, National Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Delhi chief Arvind Kejriwal, and Odisha state chief Naveen Patnaik.

    "The Centre-State relations and also relations between the ruling party at the Centre and Opposition parties have never been as bad in the history of independent India as they are now, and the blame for this rests squarely with the Prime Minister's authoritarian conduct," the letter read, which went on to urge leaders to join hands to wage a more effective struggle against the BJP's attacks on democracy and the Constitution.

    ​Banerjee specifically mentioned seven instances of what she called the BJP's "assaults" on democracy and cooperative federalism.

    States led by opposition parties have been at loggerheads with the Modi government on issues such as the recent legislation in the farm sector, the Centre’s stringent rules to fight Covid-19 and getting a fair share in Goods and Services Tax (indirect tax) compensation. Opposition parties have been accusing the BJP government of trying to usurp their power.

    Banerjee's letter came just a day ahead of the second phase of the election in West Bengal.

    In the politically charged state, the ruling Trinamool Congress party (TMC) and BJP are locked in a bitter contest. The TMC is headed by two-time State Chief Mamata Banerjee, who is striving to score a hat-trick.

    A total of 30 seats spread across India's West Bengal state and 39 seats in Assam will go to the polls on 1 April. In this phase, the election will also be held in Nandigram, one of the most prestigious constituencies of West Bengal. Banerjee is being challenged by BJP leader and former aide Suvendu Adhikari.

    Adhikari joined the BJP in December 2020. He had previously been a leader in the TMC for ten years.

    Nandigram is where Banerjee and Adhikari both started their political innings back in 2007.

    The assembly elections in West Bengal are being held over eight rounds from 27 March to 29 April for 294 seats.


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