If a ruling party overcomes all the incumbency factors and wins two-thirds of the seats in a state Assembly election, one cannot now allege that it has rigged the poll as the BJP has repeatedly been charging the Trinamool Congress after its huge victory in West Bengal Panchayat election in 2018.
Initial figures suggest that the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party has in fact increased the percentage of votes not just in comparison with the 2019 Lok Sabha election but she even improved on the 2016 Assembly polls. If a journalist and a TV anchor cannot predict as to which party is going to win when the actual difference between the victorious party and the runners up is over 10-12 per cent then he or she should give up the profession and adopt some other occupation. The difference between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP was so glaring from the very beginning that any independent analyst can make an election forecast. Yet there were few ‘objective’ experts sitting in studios in the National Capital Region busy predicting BJP victory or a cliff-hanger on the basis of Exit Polls on April 29. Making a miscalculation is one thing but propagating a false narrative is quite another.
It was an established fact from the beginning that the Trinamool Congress—notwithstanding the charge of misrule—was going to win the West Bengal election hands down.
The West Bengal unit of the BJP is a rudderless ship with no captain. Its story can also be understood with the example of a plane which has no pilot but relies only on the Air Traffic Controller to fly.
With Mamata Banerjee comfortably holding her fort, a small consolation for the BJP is that it has got almost the same number of seats which the Left and Congress jointly managed last time. Now the Samyukt Morcha of the Left, Congress and Indian Secular Front have been completely decimated. Thus, one can say that the anti-Mamata votes have just shifted towards the BJP.
The biggest losers are certainly the turncoats, who throughout their political life got benefited from Mamata Banerjee. Suvendhu Adhikari is certainly the biggest loser. Though he won by a slender margin against Mamata Banerjee from Nandigram, his new party, the BJP lost. What would now happen to his father and brother, who as late as 2019 had got elected from the TMC ticket for the Lok Sabha—and are technically still the party MPs. His other brother was the chairman of the Contai municipality.
For a moment he may pat on his back for being a giant killer but in the long run he has lost all his bargaining position.
Former minister Rajiv Banerjee, Baishali Dalmiya, Rabindranath Bhattacharya and several others crossed over to the saffron brigade just on the eve of the poll and all of them lost.
Writing a political obituary would certainly be premature, but there hardly appears to be any light in the tunnel for them.
If the communal polarisation failed to work, the result in West Bengal has certainly created another sort of divide—that is between small minority Hindi speaking people and majority Bengali-speaking lot. The Hindi speakers overwhelmingly voted for the BJP.
Before the election it was predicted that the BJP would make a clean sweep of North Bengal region of Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Siliguri, Darjeeling etc. as in 2019 Lok Sabha poll, the saffron party had won all the eight seats. But the TMC managed to win some seats even in that belt as it contested in alliance with the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Even in the tribal dominated Jungle Mahal area of Purulia-Jhargram, the BJP’s performance was much below expectation.
The erstwhile Congress stronghold of Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur has simply crumbled to the TMC wave.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pilgrimage to the shrine of 19th century Matua religious reformer, Harichand Thakur in Bangladesh failed to bring about the desired result.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. The views expressed are personal.