In the 16th Lok Sabha Election 2014, West Bengal has witnessed some interesting trends. Apart from the debacle of the Left and the ascendance of the Trinamool Congress (AITC), the other somewhat spectacular highlight is moving up of the BJP at the political centre stage in the State. It has not only won two parliamentary seats convincingly, but also has ensured 16.8 per cent of the total votes, a figure, almost four times greater than its tally in the last assembly election, 2011. The Congress amidst its nationally dismal performance has put up a moderate show here by winning four out of the six seats it had won in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The performance of the AITC in the recently held Lok Sabha election is so far the best in its electoral history. On the other side, its arch rival the Left front fared poorly.
The post poll survey data shows that the Trinamool Congress drew votes from all the sections of society. In this election, the opposition mobilised the electorate against the AITC on the issue of women’s safety, however the data suggests that despite their concerns a majority of the women voters (around 42 per cent) have supported the party. The Left vote share has significantly declined among the marginalised sections of the society, especially among the Dalits and Adivasis. These two communities along with the poor have voted in large numbers for the Trinamool Congress. Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s aggressive campaign against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi seems to have attracted the Muslim voters towards AITC. Overall, from the survey it can be asserted that the poor and the marginal sections are on the verge of losing their confidence in the left.
The BJP seemed to have made major inroads among the upper caste voters (24 per cent in 2014 from 9 per cent in 2009). The survey findings suggest that the pro-BJP sentiment present is largely propelled by Mr. Modi’s candidature. This is apparent from the fact that one-fifth respondents preferred Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister (compared to 17 per cent for Mamata Bannerjee). Mr. Modi’s impact was most prominent among the young, especially the first time voters in West Bengal. The performance of BJP is impressive because as an emerging player in Bengal politics, it has already pushed the Congress and the Left far behind.
Thus, while the West Bengal story appears to be straightforward in that the ruling party retained its hold, there are clear signs of reshaping of political competition in the State should the BJP emerge as the main opposition. Such a development will certainly change the nature of politics in the State; it would add to the national stature of the BJP but above all, it would mean a serious challenge to the long time left citadel in the country.
Jyotiprasad Chatterjee teaches Sociology at Hijli College, West Bengal. Suprio Basu teaches Sociology at the University of Kalyani, West Bengal