BJP storms into Mamata’s citadel

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on May 23, 2019 Published on May 23, 2019

BJP supporter celebrates in front of BJP headquaters in kolkata, West Bengal Debasish Bhaduri   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Saffron surge in Bengal sees Cong, Left wiped out

West Bengal witnessed a massive saffron surge as the BJP is set to win 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. While the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) will likely win22 seats, the Congress secured two. The Left Front was completely decimated, failing to win even a single seat.

The rise of the BJP was driven primarily by the rural and semi-urban voter base across North and South Bengal districts.

This is the BJP’s best-ever performance in the State that had shunned it in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls — at the peak of the Modi-wave, when , it won only twoseats.

Bengal, which has the third highest representation in the Lok Sabha after UP and Maharashtra, has emerged as the new frontier for the BJP, which has been eyeing gains here for quite some time now. A dogged TMC and its own organisation weaknesses had been coming in its way.

However, an extensive campaign by the BJP top-brass, which included Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah, better organisation of workers, an anti-Mamata feeling, and a clear division of vote bank on religious lines saw the BJP breach Mamata Banerjee’s citadel.

“People have decisively voted for Narendra Modi. Not the BJP. And in Bengal, polarisation has happened,” claimed Congress leader and former Union Minister Adhir Ranjan Choudhary.

Improving tally

As per the Election Commission website, the BJP not just improved it seat tally (leads) , but also its vote share.

From around 17 per cent in 2014, the BJP’s vote share went up to nearly 40 per cent.

The TMC’s vote share has remained constant at 43-45 per cent.

“The BJP has gained not just at the cost of the TMC, but a substantial share of the dedicated Left Front votes have come its favour,” a poll analyst said.

Transfer of Left votes

If the results of the last four elections in Bengal — two Lok Sabha [2009 and 2014] and two Assembly [2011 and 2016] — are to be considered, then the CPI(M) and the Left Front’s vote shares have steadily declined since 2009 Lok Sabha polls, while the BJP’s has grown.

In 2009, CPI(M) and Left Front’s vote share was 33.1 and 43.3 per cent, respectively. The BJP was not a force then but got 6 per cent of the vote share. The TMC got 31 per cent vote share and emerged as the principal opposition to the Left, thereby de-throning the Congress. Seven years later, in the 2016 Assembly election, the TMC polled 45 per cent, while the CPI(M) and the Left Front were at 20 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively. The Congress had around 10 per cent vote share.

In 2019, the slide in the Left Front votes continued and fell to 6-7 per cent and the Congress’ halved to 5 per cent.

The BJP’s share went up from 6.14 in 2009 to 17.02 in 2014. Now it stands at over 39 per cent.

North Bengal

The BJP was expected to gain traction in North Bengal and was leading in seven of the eight seats.

The party witnessed substantial gains along the Indo-Bangla border constituencies, indicating that its poll pitch around National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Bill had good traction.

While, the saffron party retained the Darjeeling seat, it managed strong leads in border constituencies such as Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and Balurghat. All the four are TMC strongholds, which the BJP has managed to breach. In Alipurduar, significant tribal voters have swung the party way.

This apart, other North Bengal seats like Raigunj – which saw a four corner fight between Left, BJP, Congress and TMC – and the Malda North seat swung decisively BJP’s way.

Malda North and Malda South are considered to be the ‘Amethi of Bengal’ with Congress being the dominant force. Even at its peak, the Left Front and the TMC had failed to breach the bastion. However, this time, polarisation and infighting amongst the Ghani Khan family, that dominates politics in the Malda region, has seen the votes going in favour of the BJP.

South Bengal

South Bengal is said to be a TMC bastion. However, the ‘Modi-wave 2.0’ saw TMC cede leads in at least 10 constituencies.

Trends suggest that the BJP is set to retain the Asansol seat with Union Minister Babul Supriyo. This apart, the tribal belt of Bankura, Bishnupur, Purulia and Jhargram have given substantial leads to the party.

The predominant farmer belt of Hooghly — which has the all important Singur constituency — saw BJP’s candidate Locket Chatterjee taking lead over sitting MP Ratna De Nag. In fact, the TMC is also said to be trailing in the all important Singur Assembly segment.

The BJP has also secured leads in the border constituencies of of Ranaghat and Bongaon. The Citizenship Amendment Bill seems to have had swung the tide in favour of the party with the Matuas, a Hindu sect, holding considerable sway over the voters there.

TMC retains urban areas

The Trinamool Congress has been able to retain all of its urban and semi-urban seats.

Kolkata North, Kolkata South, Dum Dum and Jadavpur saw TMC candidates firmly leading the seats.

Similarly, in the semi urban seats of Barasat, Basirhat, Howrah, Diamond Harbour, Uluberia, Sreerampur, Arambagh, Krishnanagar, Bolpur and Birbhum, the TMC candidates were leading.

The Adhikari family, known to be influential TMC leaders in the East Midnapore district, maintained their grip over the Kanthi and Tamluk constituencies. Rural contituencies such as Mathurapurand Joynagar saw TMC candidates take lead over their nearest BJP rivals.

What came as a big relief for the TMC was that it was finally able to breach the Congress bastions of Murshidabad and Jangipur. The TMC gained substantial leads in both these seats over the near Congress rivals.

Published on May 23, 2019
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