Decoding BJP’s saffron surge in West Bengal: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scripted history in West Bengal by touching the double figure. The party has won 18 Lok Sabha seats out of 42, a first by the party in a state which traditionally considered the saffron party an outlier to its political landscape. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has bagged 22 seats while Congress has taken hold of two. CPI(M)-led Left Front, which once boasted of Bengal as its citadel, failed to open its account this time.
Showing a tacit saffron sweep in the north and west India, the BJP has made significant inroads in the Trinamool Congress-ruled state. The election also showed that two major parties – Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPI(M) have lost significant ground in the state. For TMC, the only solace is an increase in its vote share from 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, there has been a decrease in numbers from the 2016 state Assembly elections.
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Going back to the previous general elections held in 2014, the BJP and CPI(M) had two seats each. While BJP won Darjeeling and Asansol, CPI(M) bagged Raiganj and Murshidabad. The Congress had managed to retain four seats of the six it had won in 2009 general elections. However, Trinamool Congress had swept 34 seats becoming the fourth largest party in the Lok Sabha after BJP, Congress and AIADMK.
Driving a tectonic shift in the state’s polity is the BJP, which now commands the support of about 40.25 per cent of the voters, inching too close to comfort for the TMC which has a vote share of 43.28 per cent, a lead of just 3.03 per cent. As per the Election Commission data, CPI(M) has the support of 7.46 per cent of the electorate while Congress has a vote share of 5.61 per cent. In the 2014 general elections, Trinamool Congress had the support of 39.77 per cent of the electorate in West Bengal, while Left, BJP and Congress have the support of 29.93, 17.02 and 9.68 per cent respectively.
(1) Polarisation: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign was mostly focussed on Hindus and included rallies on Ram Navami, the celebration of Durga Puja, Rath Yatra etc. The party has also won from the Muslim majority district- Khagen Murmu from Maldaha Uttar (polled 5,09,524 votes).
(2) Transfer of Left’s vote share to the BJP: The shifting of Left front’s votes share to the Bharatiya Janata Party is another reason behind the saffron party’s remarkable performance. In 2014 Lok Sabha election, Left’s vote share was 29.93 per cent while in 2016 state Assembly election, it was 40.03 per cent. In 2019 Lok Sabha election, the saffron party got 40.23 per cent (17.02 per cent in 2014). The data suggests that there was a transfer of 22.46 per cent of the vote share from Left to BJP.
(3) Matua factor: A crucial reason behind the BJP’s success in Bongaon and Ranaghat Lok Sabha seats in north Bengal was because of the Matua factor. Both regions have high Matua absorption. BJP’s Jagannath Sarkar and Shantanu Thakur polled 7,83,253 votes and 6,87,622 votes respectively.
(4) Dissatisfaction among middle class: Having been in power since 2011, the middle class was very much disappointed with the syndicate-raj, failure of law and order, lack of jobs, development etc. Apart from these, the state government employees are also angry with the Mamata Banerjee government over their DA hike.
(5) Defection from TMC: The defection of leaders like Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh, Soumitra Khan, Anupam Hazra and few others have played a key role in the landmark success of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Mamata Banerjee’s citadel. The BJP’s central leadership is content with Mukul Roy’s organisational skills. In the party’s National Convention held in January, only Mukul Roy (from Bengal) was allowed to speak in the stage along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
After the declaration of Lok Sabha results and formation of government at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there are wide speculations of a rift in the ruling Trinamool Congress. In an election rally, PM Modi had said that 40 TMC MLAs were in touch with BJP while party leader Mukul Roy had said that more than 125 TMC MLAs were ready to join the saffron party.
Following the unprecedented saffron surge in the state, BJP is holding leads in 129 Assembly segments. TMC’s lead has been cut down to 158 seats, according to local media reports. This has left room for Modi-Amit Shah duo to dislodge Mamata from the state where assembly polls are due in 2021.