In the middle of the election campaign in West Bengal when top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were making daily visits to the State, farmer leaders protesting in Delhi too came calling. The leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha led by Rakesh Tikait and social activist Medha Patkar camped in the State for two days. The leaders held rallies in Nandigram , Singur and Kolkata urging people not to vote for the BJP. Their campaign was ‘no vote for BJP’ and both Mr. Tikait and Ms. Patkar dissuaded people from voting for the BJP.
In another development, prominent names of Bengal’s television and film industry came up with a six-minute video song titled ‘Nijerder Mate, Nijeder Gaan’ with a message to the electorate emphasising on diversity and co-existence in the State.
Almost 48 hours after the results of West Bengal Assembly polls were declared, the State BJP leadership believes that the coming together of all anti-BJP vote is responsible for the verdict.
The Trinamool Congress registered an all-time high voting percentage since the formation of the party by recording 47.9 % votes . The BJP recorded 38.1 % votes, 9.8 % less votes than the State’s ruling party.
“What was left of the Left parties and the Congress went to the Trinamool Congress to stop the BJP. Compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Left and the Congress vote share dropped by another 5% which went to the TMC and that has made all the difference,” a top State BJP leader told The Hindu .
‘Left, Cong. irrelevant’
The BJP leader said the Left and the Congress have made themselves irrelevant in electoral politics but the transfer of votes of their supporters helped the Trinamool Congress to a massive win.
Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said while there could be multiple factors, the “no vote to BJP” campaign by a section of Left supporters and civil society foiled the chances of the saffron party. “The State’s intelligentsia resisted the BJP with full force and so did the mainstream vernacular media,” he said.
Among the other factors, the fielding of defectors from the Trinamool Congress did not go down well with the electorate. “Most of the defectors who joined the BJP from the Trinamool Congress lost. Only Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram and Mihir Goswami from Natabari won. More than 30 MLAs who had defected to the BJP were given tickets and only a few won,” Prof. Chakraborty said.
In fact, the one most important leader who defected from the Trinamool Congress to the BJP, former State Minister Rajib Banerjee, lost by a margin of over 42,000 votes from Domjur Assembly seat in Howrah. Similarly, Prabir Kumar Ghosal, MLA from Uttarpara who was flown to Delhi in a chartered flight with Mr. Banerjee when they joined the BJP, lost the seat by over 35,000 votes in Hooghly.
Other issues such as giving tickets to sitting MPs like Babul Supriyo, Locket Chatterjee and former Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta also did not go down well with the electorate, experts pointed out. The fielding of MPs gave the impression that the BJP did not have candidates to field in 294 Assembly seats.
Centre’s pandemic management
Elections in West Bengal were held in eight phases, and at least three were held in the last few days in April when the Centre’s mismanagement of COVID-19 crisis particularly in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat was all over the media and social media, Prof. Chakraborty said.
“This was such an important issue voters could not ignore. In fact, the BJP did not win a single seat in the Kolkata Presidency region,” he said. The psephologist also pointed out that in areas like Paschim Bardhaman, which are considered to be strongholds of the BJP, there was a dip in the voting percentage that could have impacted the outcomes.
In all, 114 seats went to polls in the last three phases which were held on April 22, 26 and 29 and the Trinamool Congress won nearly 79% of the seats. Of the 114 constituencies that went to polls in those phases, the TMC won 90 seats.