The voting pattern in West Bengal and Tripura, two states high on the BJP’s expansion plans, in the presidential poll has gladdened the party’s strategists. That the BJP-led NDA’s candidate Ram Nath Kovind got the support of 11 MLAs against its strength of six in Bengal and seven from Tripura, where the BJP had not won a single seat in the last assembly polls, is being seen as a good omen by the party. “West Bengal is undergoing a political change. Leaders from other parties also sense that the BJP has emerged as the main challenger to Mamata Banerjee and her party,” West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told PTI.
Interestingly, as many as 10 votes were declared invalid and the BJP sees it as an evidence of deliberate refusal by some MLAs of the parties supporting Meira Kumar to toe the official line. In the 294-member state assembly, the BJP and its allies have six MLAs. Under its national president Amit Shah, the saffron party has been making a concerted bid to replace the Left and the Congress as main opposition voices against the TMC. There is a widespread attraction to the BJP and the coming elections will see a straight fight between it and the TMC, Ghosh claimed. In Tripura, seven MLAs supported Kovind.
The BJP on paper has no MLA in the assembly but these Congress-turned-TMC MLAs have jumped onto the saffron bandwagon after Banerjee’s outfit was seen to be warming up to the Left, which rules in the state, to take on the BJP at the national level. BJP leaders believe that there is little doubt that their party has emerged as the main opposition in the state and will be the main challenger to end the 25-year-old Left rule in the state during the 2018 assembly polls. However, if Bengal and Tripura have brought happy tidings to the party, it suffered disappointment in Kerala, another state high on its agenda of nation-wide political expansion. Despite efforts, it was unable to lure any MLA from other parties and could garner only one vote, that of its lone lawmaker O Rajagopal.