Where BJP Went Wrong & How TMC Held Fort: What the Numbers Say
Was BJP not able to hold onto its strongholds? What went wrong for the party which campaigned extensively in Bengal?
Mamata Banerjee is all set to becoming the longest-serving chief minister of Bengal in the history of the state, since Jyoti Basu. Her party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), has swept all regions except Jalpaiguri, and all the eight phases of the election. The scale of the victory was such that the TMC had gained a majority by the sixth phase itself.
This performance has caused a major upset and proved all exit poll predictions wrong. The Left-Congress alliance has drawn a naught. Didi has now joined the league of regional satraps such as Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal and Naveen Patnaik, who have all successfully held their own against the BJP juggernaut.
A Close Contest
As political consultant Prashant Kishor said, it was a close contest, and the numbers may not be indicative of the tight battle it was.
The BJP was threatening to dethrone the Mamata-led TMC especially on account of a strong anti-incumbency sentiment, allegations of minority appeasement and corruption, and the exodus of her close aides like Suvendu Adhikari.
The BJP was especially charged up after its surprising performance in the 2019 elections in which it lead in 121 assembly segments mainly on account of a ‘Hindu awakening’, consolidation of marginalised caste votes, and the decimation of CPM / Left parties. However this time, it was unable to make further gains as compared to the 2019 general elections.
What the BJP Should Have Held Onto Before ‘Targeting’ TMC
The BJP needed to first hold onto its vote share of 2019, and then make a dent in the TMC’s vote share, as the Congress/Left’s remaining vote share mostly comprised of minority voters. The BJP seems to have lost 3 percent vote share from the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, which is natural, given the different nature of general and state elections.
The numbers suggest that while the weakening of the Left and the Congress helped the BJP in 2019, the complete rout of these Opposition parties in 2021 actually helped TMC hold fort.
The minority voters of the Sanjukta Morcha in Bengal have shifted en block to TMC.
The Congress and Left have not won a single seat in their strongholds — Malda, Murshidabad and Uttar Dinajpur — where the Muslim population is more than 50 percent. Thus, the Left and the Congress have lost 5 percent vote share.
A 3 percent loss for the BJP and 5 percent gain by the TMC — due to the Left+ INC — has resulted in a big 10 percent vote share lead for Mamata’s party. In a bipolar election, a 10 percent gap is huge, and no doubt, responsible for this massive victory.
If we look at region-wise results, the TMC seems to have maintained its hold in Presidency (South Bengal) and Bardhaman, while making inroads in Malda. On the other hand, the BJP has gained in the Jungle Mahal and Jalpaiguri (Hill / North Bengal) regions.
It’s said that whoever wins the Presidency wins Bengal. The BJP needed to win in this region, which went to polls mostly in the last three phases. This region is also predominantly urban, which seems to have backed Mamata for the sake of Bengali ‘asmita’, buying into her ‘insider vs outsider’ narrative.
How Mamata Fought Off Anti-Incumbency
Mamata was able to deftly tide over the anti-incumbency wave against the local MLAs with her immense popularity. She led the ratings for the best CM candidate — 46 percent versus 26 percent (for the BJP). Just like Modi grows stronger with personal attacks, she also seems to have gained from the campaign directed at her. Bengal is a state where popularity ratings of the prime minister, though high, is lower than the national average — and this helped the TMC.
Mamata also benefitted from the support of the ‘silent woman voter’ who has a natural affinity towards her not least because of gender, but for all that Mamata has done for women of the state and representing feminine power.
For starters, she is today the only woman chief minister in India. Her schemes for women have helped lakhs of beneficiaries, and the announcement of a monthly stipend of Rs 500 - Rs 1000 to a woman head of family has done wonders for the Trinamool. Plus, women seem to have voted in larger numbers than men.
A Phenomenal Victory
However, Mamata lost to her former aide Suvendu by less than 2,000 votes in Nandigram, as she focused her efforts on a pan-state campaign. This was the only consolation for the BJP.
To sum up, Mamata has scripted a phenomenal victory, raising her stature in national politics. The chorus is growing for her to take up the joint opposition mantle against Modi in the 2024 elections — especially with the decimation of the Congress party. This victory could emerge as a turning point in Didi’s career.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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