West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016

Can BJP conquer the heart of Bengal?

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party are confident of the party repeating its performance in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, when it got nearly 17 per cent of the votes for the first time in the State.

“The BJP will perform well as there is a strong undercurrent, and the party will sustain its 2014 performance for sure,” said its national spokesperson, M.J. Akbar.

If the BJP can maintain its performance without converting votes to seats, then the Trinamool Congress will be the happiest. For, the 2014 Lok Sabha election has indicated that a transfer of vote from the Communist Party of India to the BJP helped the Trinamool in many pockets.

But can the BJP repeat its 2014 performance?

“In Malda or Murshidabad [two Muslim-majority districts], the party was growing steadily after 2014, but now, the wave is receding,” regretted a BJP leader in Malda. In 2014, the BJP performed outstandingly in the seats which are going to the polls in the coming phases. Voting will be held for nine seats each in Bardhaman and Bankura and 13 in Paschim Medinipur on April 11.

While in Paschim Medinipur, the BJP failed to threaten its rivals in 2014, in both Bankura and Bardhaman, it scored substantially. In Bardhaman district, the party scored between 30 per cent and 51 per cent in five seats and more than 22 per cent in another four. In nearly all the seats in Bankura, the BJP scored between 15 per cent and 27 per cent.

The BJP’s performance was equally good in the north and central districts of the State. The party got 47.48 per cent in Darjeeling, 23.24 in undivided Jalpaiguri, 22.5 in Dakshin Dinajpur, 20.35 in Bardhaman, 18.73 in Malda and 18.29 in Birbhum. In Kolkata, it was more than 27 per cent. But barring a couple of seats in south Malda — Baishnabnagar and Mothabari — and a few in the extreme north, prospects for the saffron party are not as exciting in 2016.

Violence

“In these seats, the BJP would do well, owing to the violence led by the minorities on January 3, when some houses were attacked,” said Prasenjit Saha, who runs a shop in Kaliachak’s traffic intersection where a mob turned violent then.

“The incident has entirely polarised the people in the area and the BJP will get the Hindu vote in the area,” Mr. Saha said. Such polarisation, however, would help the CPI(M)-Congress alliance — and not the Trinamool — as the traditional leader in Malda is the Congress.

“The BJP could have taken advantage of the situation in other seats as well — which are not in the traditional Congress stronghold — if it would have accelerated the speed of investigation of a financial scam, which it had promised. Even Muslims would have voted for them,” said M.J. Habibur Rehman, who lost Rs. 6 lakh as an agent of a ponzi scheme company.

Who would get the BJP’s share?

“The answer may not be in black or white, it is complex,” said a veteran analyst, close to Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee.

“One thought is whether both the sides [the alliance and the Trinamool] may share what the BJP may lose. The other argument is if they [BJP’s voters] would poll for the Left as they are traditionally anti-Left,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“Why not,” asks CPI(M)’s star campaigner Asok Bhattacharya. “The BJP’s loss would only benefit the Left-Congress alliance as it was the CPI(M)’s vote that moved to the BJP. It would only come back to the CPI(M) as the Left gets stronger,” said Mr. Bhattacharya. The Congress candidate from Salt Lake, Arunabha Ghosh, made a similar argument.


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 4:38:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/westbengal2016/Can-BJP-conquer-the-heart-of-Bengal/article14224497.ece

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