A controversy erupted on Saturday amid the polling for 44 assembly seats in Bengal, after the Bharatiya Janata Party released audio clips, one of which has Trinamool Congress election strategist Prashant Kishor purportedly saying that the "ruling party's internal survey shows BJP is winning".
Sharing excerpts of Kishor's chat with some journalists, BJP's IT cell chief Amit Malviya claimed that Banerjee's poll strategist has already accepted defeat.
Kishor, on his part, dared the BJP to release the full conversation on Clubhouse, a social media platform, and claimed that the saffron camp would fail to bag more than 100 assembly seats in Bengal.
In the purported audio clip, which the PTI could not independently verify, Kishor is heard saying "Modi is hugely popular in Bengal, and there is no doubt about it. He is equally popular like Mamata Banerjee".
He also allegedly said that factors such as Suvendu Adhikari's exit from the TMC, and his advices to Mamata Banerjee will hardly have an impact on the election.
"Rather, Dalits and the Matua communities specifically voting for the BJP is a very important factor. Matuas will predominantly vote for the BJP but not as much as they did in 2019...this time it will be 75 per cent (votes) for the BJP and 25 per cent for the TMC," Kishor is heard saying in the clip, which was shared on Twitter by Malviya.
Additionally, the poll strategist also apparently said, "There is a certain percentage of people who see God in Modi. In Bengal, the Hindi-speaking population is the core of Modi's support base. There is anti-incumbency against the state government, not the Centre.
"We carried out a survey and it showed that the BJP will come to power. At the ground level, it has strong cadre base...I had said 50-55 % Hindus are voting for the BJP."
The audio clip triggered a political storm in Bengal, with the BJP claiming the TMC has accepted defeat and the ruling party accusing the saffron camp of playing mind games.
"In a public chat on Clubhouse, Mamata Banerjee's election strategist concedes that even in TMC's internal surveys, BJP is winning. The vote is for Modi; polarisation is a reality, the SCs (27 per cent of WB's population), Matuas are all voting for the BJP! BJP has cadre on the ground," Malviya tweeted.
Mocking the BJP, Kishor said the saffron party should have the courage to share the full chat on Clubhouse, instead of releasing it in parts to suit its convenience.
"I am glad BJP is taking my chat more seriously than the words of their leaders! They should show courage & share the full chat instead of getting excited with selective use of parts of it," he said on the microblogging site.
"I have said this before & repeating - BJP will not to CROSS 100 in WB," Kishor added.
Reacting to the development, senior TMC leader and MP Dola Sen said the BJP is playing "mind games" and resorting to pressure tactics to boost the confidence of its rank and file.