Exit Polls in West Bengal Not Reflective of TMC’s Decline
Exit polls are not sacrosanct. But this time, they are at complete variance with the prevailing mood in West Bengal. The India Today-Axis My India exit polls show a virtual landslide victory of the Trinamool Congress with anything between 223 to 253 seats and a mere 38 to 51 seats for the Left Front-Congress combine.
This result has stunned political observers in the state. The last two-and-a-half months have witnessed a steady decline in the fortunes of the TMC, with their image having taken a severe battering. Even the TMC’s supporters were predicting a win with a reduced percentage.
If this prediction is true, what will Banerjee’s new avatar be like?
An angry bureaucrat says:
Tough times lie ahead. You start believing you don’t need a system. You believe you are the system. As a result you start taking short-cuts. You start breaking rules. You dismantle the system. You crack the whip. Yes, you deliver too, but the rule of law has gone forever. While the city has better roads, lights, a coat of paint, there is lack of security on the streets. Police stations are helpless when faced with goons being supported by the ruling party.
Does TMC Still Enjoy the Support of Muslims?
The bureaucracy has more than one reason to be angry. There is currently an unprecedented 50 percent difference in the dearness allowance which is given to central government employees and the state government employees. While the chief minister doles out hundreds of crores of rupees without any rules or regulations to her party-affiliated clubs and those organising various cultural festivals, she has not been able to grant a 10 percent hike to aggrieved state employees.
Another significant factor is the Muslim vote in West Bengal. Muslims influence 80 of the 294 seats. Muslims comprise 30 percent of the rural population and 23 percent in urban areas, where their votes matter significantly. In 2011 the TMC received a large chunk of this vote.
Does the TMC still enjoy their support?
In the 2011 Assembly elections in Bengal, 9 percent of the overall votes went to the Congress which had allied with the TMC. A significant part of this 9 percent was the minority vote. This time, with the Left Front and the Congress joining forces, it was widely believed that the equation could change.
A Landslide Victory for TMC?
Could anti-incumbency and the prevailing dismal mood still ensure a landslide victory for the TMC?
While TMC survived the Sarada chit fund scam, the slew of disasters like the Narada sting operation and the collapse of the Girish Park flyover battered the TMC’s image and hit Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the most crucial hour.
She had projected herself as the epitome of honesty. The perceived erosion of her popularity filled Banerjee with a sense of insecurity. A rattled chief minister and her party members kept changing their stance. First, the Narada sting was dismissed as doctored. A month later, one of her ministers declared that an investigation by the party had been ordered. Then, one of her party colleagues said there was a difference between a ‘bribe’ and a ‘donation’. And finally, the Chief Minister announced that if she had known about those exposed in the sting, she would have given it thought, implying she would have denied tickets to those shown accepting bribes in the Narada sting.
Interestingly, when the Narada tapes were released, there was still a month left to file nominations. Incoherent ramblings have apparently not affected the TMC’s performance at the hustings.
Banerjee’s freebie culture in the rural areas may have stood her in good stead.
As the hours creep closer, the state is on tenterhooks.
As for the results of the exit polls, a veteran political observer says, “Is this a deep desire or is it a thorough assessment?”
May 19 has all the answers.
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