Elections 2021

Election results 2019: Bengal votes for the BJP, breaks many stereotypes

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on May 23, 2019

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public gathering in West Bengal.   -  Debasish Bhaduri

With BJP leading in nearly half the seats out of 42 in West Bengal, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be remembered for bringing a paradigm shift in the political narrative of West Bengal.

For nearly 40 years, since 1980, the state remained isolated from national politics. The local narrative was ruled by Leftist ideologies, which survived on the politics of confrontation with the Centre. Trinamool Congress (TMC), which was a product of this trend, now stands broken.

It’s a new post-ideological Bengal which is not afraid to change its loyalty, and BJP is not a political untouchable, which means the State is no more a preserve of regional parties. At the same time, no one can probably take it for granted.

Mamata’s future

An immediate casualty of this shift, is the so-called political stability. Barring five years, between 1967 and 1972 (when the State had two phases of President’s rule and three short-lived governments); both Congress and Left had long stints.

Naturally, everyone expected Mamata Banerjee to have a long, uninterrupted stay ever since she came to power in 2011. The expectation was bolstered by her party’s emphatic win in both 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly election.

But voters clearly thought otherwise.

Going by precedence, Mamata’s stay beyond 2021 will be difficult. Except 1984, the trend set by the general elections was consolidated in Assembly elections in Bengal. The Trinamool Congress too announced its arrival by winning 19 seats against Left’s 15 in 2009. The party won 34 seats in 2014.

Let us face the fact. The 2019 election is a re-run of the 2009 elections in Bengal, when voters used their franchise against the ruling party in the State.

Among the differences, Trinamool stitched a coalition to ensure bi-polar contest in 2009. There was a four-corner contest in 2019 but the electorate was united, which means in a bi-polar contest Mamata would have been routed.

There is no single factor behind Mamata’s fall from grace. Yes, religious polarisation could be a factor and, Mamata’s aggressive strategy to ‘woo’ Muslim voters could be a reason behind this divide. But the oppressive political environment, corruption, hooliganism, lack of growth and joblessness also pay a role.

The TMC won one-third seats unopposed in a violence-ridden rural-body election in 2018. Districts like Birbhum became ‘Oppositon-free’.

The series of scams and the opulent lifestyle of Trinamool’s leaders, attracted public criticism and the lack of job opportunity driven the young from her.

BJP as a force

Young voters, who constitute one-fifth of the electorate, largely voted for BJP; so did transport workers, state government employees and urban population. The violence unleashed on the Opposition, forced Left cadres to seek shelter in BJP. Even a section of the Muslims, as in Birbhum, seems to have voted for BJP.

This coupled with the power of digital media, developmental schemes like rural housing, electricity, LPG offered by Modi government at the Centre did the trick for BJP.

There is little doubt that BJP is a strong claimant for power in 2021 in Bengal; unless it squanders its chances.

Voters are taking the road less travelled in search of a better alternative, not merely to replace Trinamool.

Published on May 23, 2019

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