Lotus finally blooms in West Bengal as Mamata suffers setback

Mamata and Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday severely mauled the Trinamool Congress as it’s all set to reach the double-digit mark in West Bengal parliamentary elections for the first time.

As per the trends till 8 pm, the party is leading in 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, a spectacular increase from its earlier best tally of two.

The TMC candidates are ahead in 22 seats, a significant drop from 34 seats it had won in the 2014 parliamentary elections.

The Congress is ahead in Berhampore Lok Sabha seat, which has been retained by its strongman Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury since 1999, and also in Maldaha South.

The biggest takeaway of this election, apart from the BJP’s rise in the state, is the mammoth decline of the once formidable CPI (M)-led Left Front. As per the available trend, the Left is unlikely to open its account this time.

The decline of the Left immensely helped the BJP to increase its vote share from 17.02% in 2014 to over 40% this time.

The TMC too increased its vote share from 39.05% in 2014 to 43.4%, which, however, is a marginal drop from 44.9% votes the party got in the 2016 assembly elections.

Tribal-non-tribal divide

The BJP particularly performed well in the tribal-dominated areas of Bengal where it subtly played tribal non-tribal divide allegedly through the RSS-run ‘Ekal vidyalas’.  The party is leading in both Alipurduars and Jhargram seats that are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates. The Left had a strong presence in these areas, but this time its vote shares declined to below double digit.

“We have been working to strengthen the party organization for the last three years and today’s result is the outcome of that,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.

The party’s sustained campaign against purported illegal-migrants from Bangladesh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal apparently resonated with voters, particularly in constituencies bordering Bangladesh.

The attack on democracy by TMC supporters in the last year’s Panchayat elections too helped the BJP by unifying anti-TMC votes in its favour, said many BJP leaders.

Infighting within the ruling party too benefitted the BJP as TMC turncoats like Arjun Singh in Barrackpore and Saumitra Khan in Bishnupur emerged victorious in BJP.

The saffron party’s tacit support for a separate Gorkhaland statehood demand helped it win the Darjeeling parliamentary seat.

Desecration of Vidhyasagar’s bust

Significantly, in this highly polarised elections, the Bengali ethnicity card that the TMC had played ahead of the seventh and last round of elections, following vandalizing of Iswar Chandra Vidysagar’s bust, allegedly by BJP supporters, apparently paid dividend to it.

The BJP fared poorly in all the nine seats that went to polls after the attack on the memory of one of the icons of Bengal’s Renaissance.

In Kolkata and its suburbs, the TMC retained its dominance in all the six seats in the area.

Impact on TMC government

Overall, the result turned the whisper about the saffron party’s surge in the state into a loud and powerful declaration, causing a serious concern for the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in the state, which will seek reelection within two years time.

“Half in 2019 and saaf (whitewash) in 2021,” is the slogan rented the BJP’s state headquarters in North Kolkata after the results from various Lok Sabha constituencies of the state started coming in.

Some BJP leaders even claimed that West Bengal might not have to wait that long to see a saffron government as many TMC legislators would soon switch- side.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an election rally in the state had claimed that 100 ruling party legislators were in touch with BJP leadership to change side after election result.

Senior TMC leader Anubrata Mandal without ruling out the possibility, however, claimed that even if that happened it would happen just before assembly elections and not now.

The BJP is already set to increase it strength in West Bengal assembly as it is leading in four assembly seats, out of eight where by-elections were held with parliamentary polls. The TMC won one seat and has taken lead in two others, while the Congress is leading in one.

Meanwhile, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in a tweet said she would review the performance.