​Eastern front: On the electoral battle in West Bengal  

Polarisation of votes in West Bengal is edging out the Left and the Congress 

May 03, 2024 12:10 am | Updated 11:06 am IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nurtures high hopes in West Bengal, where it won 18 of the 42 seats, and 40% vote share in 2019. This dramatic rise from two seats in 2014 gave the party the confidence to present itself as the principal opposition in the 2021 Assembly polls, but the Mamata Banerjee-led All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) stormed back to power for a third term. With 77 of the 294 Assembly seats, and a 38.1% vote share, the BJP came a distant second. This year, the polling in the State is spread across all seven phases of the general election, and the BJP is pulling out all stops in the hope it could improve its tally which could also compensate for any electoral loss elsewhere. The BJP is keeping the TMC on the defensive with allegations of corruption, the land grab and sexual assault at Sandeshkhali, and the school recruitment scam. The Calcutta High Court terminated about 25,000 teacher appointments which is a shot in the arm for the BJP. The TMC’s campaign against the BJP is centred on New Delhi’s stoppage of funds to the State under central schemes and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. It is also banking on its cash transfer schemes such as Lakshmir Bhandar for women. Highlighting the issue of women’s safety, the BJP has fielded a woman from Sandeshkhali, the constituency that saw reports of assault on women.

The BJP hopes to perform better in the districts of north Bengal, where it had won seven out of eight seats in 2019, while the Trinamool’s focus is more in the southern districts with a high proportion of Muslim voters. For this, the TMC is also battling the Left-Congress coalition. The alliance may turn out to be a factor in certain seats in the minority-dominated districts of Malda and Murshidabad, and the decision of the Indian Secular Front to walk out of the alliance is likely to work to the advantage of the TMC. The BJP is bringing up Ram Mandir, violence during Ram Navami processions and the illegal movement of people across the India-Bangladesh border. Polarisation of voters on religious lines had helped the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the Trinamool in the 2021 Assembly polls, edging out the Left and Congress from the field. The Trinamool is also harping on the Bengali identity by presenting itself as its custodian and portraying the BJP as an interloper and being insensitive to the interests of the State. For the BJP, West Bengal is not merely about winning more seats but is also about expanding its foothold into a region that claims exceptionalism. Some of the earliest arguments for a Hindu polity had originated in Bengal, and this gives the BJP hope.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.