The 'M' factor will have decisive say in West Bengal polls as demographic profile of the state shows that there are six Lok Sabha seats with more than 7 lakh Muslim voters and in eight constituencies the number is between 5 and 7 lakh. In the remaining 28 seats, the Muslim population is less than 4 lakh.
The Lok Sabha poll process in West Bengal got underway on Thursday with casting of votes in two reserved seats of Coochbehar and Alipurduar.
Both the seats were won by the Trinamool Congress in 2014 but going by the current assessment, Coochbehar is being considered to be a low-hanging fruit for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is looking to increase it's tally in the state from two seats -- Darjeeling and Asansol -- in last elections.
Out of the 42 seats, 34 were won by Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, four by the Congress and the Left and the BJP got two each.
The seats with highest Muslim voters include Baharampur (nearly 10 lakh), Murshidabad (nearly 8 lakh), Jangipur (nearly 11 lakh), Raiganj (nearly 9 lakh), Maldah Uttar (nearly 9 lakh) and Maldah Dakshin (nearly 8 lakh).
Maldah Uttar, Maldah Dakshin, Jangipur and Murshidabad will go to polls in third phase on April 23.
Polling in Raiganj will be held on April 18 and Baharampur on April 29.
The other seats with substantial Muslim voters include Mathurapur (SC), Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin, Kolkata Uttar, Bolpur (SC), Birbhum and Jaynagar (SC).
Polling in West Bengal is taking place in all the seven phases.
Nine seats -- Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Jaynagar, Mathurpur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar -- will see polling in last phase on May 19.
The BJP has invested heavily by launching an aggressive campaign against Mamata Banerjee. According to party's internal assessment, it can get 10 seats but the Trinamool Congress is determined to repulse the BJP's march.
The Congress and the Left have been pushed to the margins by the two parties.
(Gautam Datt can be contacted at email@example.com)