The Khela Concludes In West Bengal
Image Credits: Mint
Out of the 292 Constituent Assembly seats in West Bengal, Trinamool Congress secured an overwhelming majority by winning 213 seats. The BJP won 77 seats and the Left- Congress alliance failed to secure even a single seat. The vote share of BJP was at 38% and that of TMC was at 47%.
Mamta Banerjee’s party repeated a victory similar to that of the last assembly elections of 2016 where they won 211 seats. BJP has made massive gains in the state going from just 3 seats in 2016 to 77 seats in 2021. Nevertheless, they failed to breach the double-digit mark, which they were quite confident of achieving. The election was highly polarized in its nature, illustrated by the fact that only two parties- TMC and BJP won 290 seats. It was polarized even along communal lines as it was expected that the sizeable Muslim population of the state would not vote for the BJP. The TMC’s vote share saw an increase from 4.2% in 2016 to 7.4% in 2021 in the districts of Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur; the top three districts by share of Muslim population.
On deeper analysis one finds that the TMC was the incumbent party in 161 of the 213 seats which it won, with 51 of the remaining 52 being with the Left-Congress alliance. Thus suggesting that the TMC has captured the votebase of the Left-Congress alliance. JNU students Aishe Ghosh and Dipsita Dhar who contested from Jamuria and Bally on the tickets of CPI(M), also lost the election. Many people attributed this to strategic voting exercised by the voters in order to keep the BJP out of power, rather than voters’ attraction towards TMC.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said that "The TMC won because of Mamata Banerjee. It seems people have chosen Didi. We will introspect what went wrong, whether it was organisational issues, lack of face, insider-outsider debate. We will see what went wrong,"
In fact, political analysts believe that it was all three of the issues. There was a lack of organisational base on part of the BJP and it depended heavily on TMC defectors to provide that base and some form of legitimacy to the party among Bengali voters. This strategy failed to yield results as other than Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram and Mihir Goswami from Natabari, most other TMC defectors lost in their constituencies, including former ministers of the Mamta Banerjee government. State Minister Rajib Banerjee, lost by a margin of over 42,000 votes from Domjur Assembly seat in Howrah. In Bhabanipur, Rudranil Ghosh lost ,Prabir Kumar Ghoshal lost in Uttarpara, while Rabindranath Bhattacharya lost in Singur and several other defectors who were given party tickets also failed to secure their seat. The BJP also fielded sitting MPs Locket Chatterjee and Babul Supriyo. It’s believed that the impression of this move on the voters was that the BJP did not have enough leaders who could contest on all 292 seats. Both of the MPs lost in their respective constituencies by large margins.
It is also said that the mismanagement of the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin for the BJP. The distress calls coming out of the other states considerably influenced voters and contributed to the BJP’s losses in the last three phases of the election. The last three phases were held during April 22, 26 and 29th, a time during which the second wave peaked and the dissatisfaction of the general public with the central government found its way to all media platforms, including social media. Of the 114 constituencies that went to polls in those phases, the TMC won 90 seats.
TMC’s performance this time has probably been one of the best in the history of West Bengal. The TMC secured a vote share of 47.9%, the second highest vote share for a single party in West Bengal’s history after the Congress’s 49.1% in 1972. This has led to many People speculating whether a Mamata Banerjee led coalition of regional parties will emerge to fight elections against BJP in 2024. After the election results in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Puducherry, the feeling that Congress can no longer be an effective opposition, or the rallying point for opposition parties has only grown. The question remains whether Mamata would be able to fill this gap.
However, in the long and twisted battle of Nandigram, Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP emerged victorious against Mamta Banerjee. As a TMC candidate he had won Nandigram in 2016 with a vote share of 67.2%. Adhikari’s vote share has come down to 48.5% this time compared to Mamta Banerjee’s 47.6%. Suvendu Adhikari thus won the personal battle against Mamta but lost the political battle for his party. After the final declaration of results, Mamta Banerjee said "I accept the verdict in Nandigram - it is not a big deal. Don't worry,". Further, she said that there was some “mischief” in the counting of the votes and she would therefore go to court about the issue.
This constituency had particularly high stakes because of its significance to the mentor-mentee relationship of Mamta Banerjee and Suvendhu Adhikari. Trinamool Congress is said to have risen to power from the Nandigram Movement of 2007, a movement against the then Left government for attempting to acquire land for creation of a Special Economic Zone(SEZ). Suvendhu Adhikari is credited with winning unprecedented support for the movement and thus also furthering the cause of the TMC. He quickly rose to power within the party as Mamta Banerjee made him a minister in her cabinet after the 2016 state elections. He is said to have quit the party because of the rise of Mamta Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee in the party,which was unacceptable to him.
On May 5th, the same day as Mamta Banerjee was sworn in as the Chief Minister of Bengal, Suvendu Adhikari tweeted that all MLAs of BJP took an oath against the politics of hate and violence perpetrated by the ruling government.This statement was in light of the alleged violence which broke out in the state after the declaration of results on 2nd May.
Several shops and residences of BJP workers were allegedly vandalised by Trinamool Congress workers in various parts of the state. The state police intervened and found out that many of the images and videos being shared were fake. Nevertheless there were also genuine cases of violent clashes between party workers and this violence was condemned by several prominent figures in the country. The Central government has sent a four member team to the state for finding out the ground reality of the situation. Two petitions have also been filed in the Supreme Court against alleged violence inflicted by TMC workers.
By Srijani Datta
Sociology, Ist year
Srijani Datta is an 18 year old eco-feminist from New Delhi who likes to talk about all things politics,gender and society. She is currently pursuing her undergraduation in Sociology and wishes to contribute to society’s understanding of social phenomenon through it.