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Election results 2019: Decoding the mandate State by State
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How the saffron tide shook the Trinamool citadel

Polarisation, anti-incumbency and erosion of Left vote base helped the BJP make huge inroads into West Bengal, a State with a nearly 30% minority vote

May 23, 2019 10:46 pm | Updated May 24, 2019 02:17 am IST - NEW DELHI

Time to party:  BJP supporters celebrating the victory of their candidates in West Bengal on Thursday.

Time to party: BJP supporters celebrating the victory of their candidates in West Bengal on Thursday.

The huge inroads made by the BJP into West Bengal, is one of the major stories coming out of the mandate of 2019. Like everywhere else, the party worked to a plan to shake the Trinamool Congress citadel, helped along the way by various factors including a polarisation of the electorate on the questions of minority appeasement, local level anti-incumbency and the massive erosion of the Left’s vote base.

 

West Bengal had often been considered unwinnable for the BJP with nearly 30% of minority vote in the State. “During the Left’s regime, all sections voted for them, like they did for Mamata Banerjee later, but there was no overt religiosity expressed by Left-led governments or the party and no appeasement. Muslim leaders of the Left were Leftists first, since the ideology did not acknowledge religion,” said a senior general secretary of the BJP.

Ms. Banerjee’s tenure, according to the BJP, broke that melding. The BJP repeatedly and consistently called out Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on what it termed her “minority appeasement” politics, pointing out to such acts of her government as giving a government allotted income to Imams and muezzins, or an administrative act of stopping processions for immersion of Durga idols during Durga puja as it coincided with Muharram processions a couple of years ago. A majority consolidation in 18 of these seats went a long way in securing the result on May 23.

Mukul Roy factor

When Trinamool’s backroom manager, former Union Minister Mukul Roy joined the BJP, he gave to the party leadership a list of 32 seats where the State’s nearly 30% Muslim population was not the decisive factor in determining who won that seat. Mr. Roy’s knowledge of Ms. Banerjee’s electoral machinery within her party also came in handy for the BJP in placing the right candidates and poaching the disaffected in the Trinamool.

Local anti-incumbency

BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told The Hindu that the party also gained from local anti-incumbency against the Trinamool, not least because of Ms. Banerjee pushing her nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, into a leadership position in the party. “There is much internal wrangling happening inside the Trinamool, especially now that Ms. Banerjee is pushing her nephew into taking charge of the party organisation. We met many disaffected party members who have joined us for a non-dynastic alternative,” Mr. Vijayvargiya said.

Sources also told The Hindu , that the denial of franchise to over two crore voters during last year’s panchayat polls in the State, where 34% of Trinamool candidates were declared elected unopposed was a turning point. “We lost many of our workers to violence, and this made the party determined that this sacrifice should not go in vain, and the denial of franchise to so many people should be reckoned for,” said a senior leader.

Declining vote share

The Left’s failure in opening its account in West Bengal is reflected in the fact that the BJP went from 10% vote share in the 2016 Assembly elections to 40% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The Left’s vote share in the meanwhile has seen a steep decline, from 25% to just 5% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Clearly much of the Left vote has shifted to the BJP, which is being seen by the former voters of the Left as the party that has the heft for taking on the Trinamool. Mr. Vijayvargiya denies that anyone in the BJP did this by design. “It’s an exercise of survival of the fittest, logon ne apni suvidha anusaar sahyog diya hai, humne koi sahyog nahin maanga (people have extended support as per their convenience, we haven’t asked anyone for it),” he said.

He instead said that Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, BJP president Amit Shah’s concentration on boosting booth level preparedness in the organisation and the fact that the party could reach out to many of the 46 lakh beneficiaries of the Modi government’s welfare schemes “tipped the balance in the BJP’s favour.”

The party’s absence in the State where its Jan Sangh (BJP’s precursor) founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee hailed from was a matter of much angst in the BJP. That seems to have been addressed in 2019.

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