This has been an upset. Upsetting for the pollsters, journalists and all those who predicted that the Left and the Congress experiment were up to take “head on” Mamata Banerjee! Majorly upsetting was for the Left parties who thought that pure arithmetic could win them, seats.
The Left was reduced to half of their total seats held in the last Assembly elections that itself was termed historical when their thirty five year old fort was captured by the Trinamool Congress. The Congress party instead got a slight edge this time due to the support and the Jhot (coalition), making this polls to be the most unpredictable elections results of West Bengal. Not that there were doubts about Mamata Banerjee’s ability to win elections on her own but because the opposing forces usually tend to hit harder unitedly.
This had been the logic in the minds of the opposing parties i.e the Left and the Congress when they were forging the alliance. Former enemies became allies! The leaders went on asking their workers, “Let the hand (symbol of the congress party) carry the ‘hammer and the sickle (symbol of CPM) together to fight against the “autocracy of the Trinamool Congress”.
The idea that had influenced their minds was simple. Poll arithmetic works; the two opposing parties with their respective share of votes would add up to a large vote bank that can challenge the dominance of the Trinamool Congress. It had worked perfect in 2011, when the ‘joint forces’ of the Trinamool and the Congress had dismantled the Left citadel. Remember, even then when Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress was almost won close to a two third majority on its own, the victory was attributed to a combined vote share of the “Trinamool and Congress coalition”. They had then applied the same logic that dedicated vote banks will sail the partners through.
But times are different now. Not necessarily that the age old vote banks still exist intact particularly amongst the youngsters, women, minorities, tribal and the underserved. There is no retention value anymore. Each time each political party will have to strategize afresh to reach out to each and every voter. The Left lost almost half of their seats of 2011 making it clear that in politics not all decisions work arithmetically and unilaterally every time. And why should it be?
Mamata Banerjee has been the undisputed leader of her party that came to power five years back in West Bengal. She was single handedly managing her campaigns this time despite severe anti-incumbency factor gripping her governance. Her main leaders were surrounded by allegations of major corruption due to Saradha chit fund scam earlier and the Narada sting few days before the elections. One of her true comrade and amongst the most powerful leaders of her party Madan Mitra is lodged in jail on charges of corruption and it was the Trinamool Chief who still aggressively campaigned even for him. Then there was the after-shocks of the Vivekananda flyover collapse, the syndicate controversy etc. And there was no other face besides the leader herself to handle flowers and brickbats both at the same time. Her party-men totally depended on her magic. It did work and worked magically. She not just increased her previous tally but managed to do so with ease and comfort crushing all opposing forces. And that too without any “Gatbandhan” (alliance)!
On the other hand, the Left and the Congress until recently were enemies accused of killings and loot in their respective strongholds and an alliance with each other might not be as rosy as was being projected. Mamata Banerjee is a product of the Congress tree and hence her alliance with the Congress in 2011 was more acceptable to the people than as of today when the real time enemies became allies. With very little commonality in party ideology the reasons to unite in West Bengal was loud and clear.
“Opposition forces Unite” to “Oust the present Government”! Ask any leader where the Left and the Congress harmonized and the answer was to “just to oust the present government”.
The reasons did not go down well with the people. The results say so. The biggest loser of the coalition has been the Left parties. The congress too upped its tally by a few numbers, but Left lost miserably.
“This proves beyond doubt that the dedicated Left voters had voted for the Congress but that did not replicate amongst Congress voters. They instead chose the Trinamool Congress. Look at the seats in even the Left bastions in pockets of North Bengal and Central Bengal, the loss of the Left explains clearly that the dedicated congress voters went back to Trinamool Congress instead”, explains Ajitha Menon, journalist and political observer.
Opposition unity has been tested in several elections in India before. The Mahagatbandhan (Grand Alliance) in Bihar worked perfect, the formation of the UPA government in 2004 and the NDA in 1998 depended on the “unity of the opposition”. But in West Bengal the formula failed miserably.
The reasons could be many for the failed attempt. The Left chief ministerial candidate Suryakanta Mishra in no way matched the energy and the efficacy of Mamata Banerjee. Many of the Left workers now in the Trinamool camp are using the same “arm twisting tactics of poll management and booth Management” as the former Left. The minorities have a sizeable population in the state and no one but Mamata Banerjee has provided them the idea of “social inclusion” in all sectors, even in her 'election Management'. “People vote for the winning team. Greater national issues also played a major role in the consolidation of votes”, explains Anwar Hussain local journalist of Dainik Jagran newspaper. “On the flip side the BJP made a mark in the state with more than their own estimated number of seats”.
West Bengal voted phenomenally differently this time again sending pollsters back to their research books looking for answers as to what was the real reason for such a landslide victory for the Trinamool Congress when even her own party men were not sure about.
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Updated Date: May 20, 2016 08:15:00 IST