The saffron wave is sweeping across India. In 2014, one of the few states to have thwarted that wave was West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress bagged 34 of 42 seats. Five years have passed. Going by early trends on counting day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not only managed to engineer another ‘wave’ election in his favour, but this time he has done even better.
His party, the BJP has seemingly breached Mamata’s fortress and appears to have become a serious challenger to TMC’s political dominance. Early leads indicate that the saffron party, which still sorely lacks in local leadership and organisational structure in West Bengal, has blasted open the fortress and is making rapid strides. According to trends projected by Firstpost at the time of writing, the BJP roared into double figures and is hot on the heels of the ruling party. The saffron outfit is leading in 19 seats, the TMC is ahead in 22 while Congress is ahead in two. Remember that in 2014 amid nationwide Modi wave, the BJP could win only two seats in Bengal.
As per the NDTV website, the BJP is ahead in 18 seats while the TMC is ahead in 22. Both these websites, which compile their numbers from different sources, are claiming that the Left’s tally, so far, is zero. The significance of this cannot be overstated in a state where the Left Front ruled unabated for 34 years.
The Left’s tally, thus far, gives us an indication of the way ground realities have changed in West Bengal. The Left vote in Bengal even at the height of its dominance was never a committed ideological vote, but perks of ruling a state where power literally flows from the barrel of the gun. Once the Left lost power, a certain section of this vote that remained anti-Mamata, became anchorless. The BJP’s rise has given this anchorless vote a new direction. During campaigning stage, reports emerged of erstwhile Left cadres aligning with and silently aiding the BJP.
To a certain extent Mamata is also responsible for this development because TMC went after whatever was left of the Left Front organisational structure with such ferocity and conviction that in the badlands of Bengal, former Left cadres veered towards the BJP looking for some sort of protection.
Along with this churn, Mamata’s minority appeasement policy to corner Muslim votes (earlier considered as Left Front vote bank) also enabled a reverse polarisation among Hindus that the BJP managed to exploit. Along with these factors that acted as enablers for BJP’s rise, brand Modi was the force multiplier.
The prime minister travelled extensively through the length and breadth of the state, holding rallies in 15 constituencies among 42 and along with party president Amit Shah put in a huge amount of hard work to give shape to the undercurrent of support in its favour that rapidly became more overt and explicit.
The amount of vociferous response that Modi’s rallies generated in spite of the BJP’s grassroot lacunae and TMC’s obstructionism (think about denying permission to BJP from holding rallies, road shows and even preventing landing of choppers) indicated that a huge swing was under way.
What we are seeing, therefore, is the logical conclusion of that swing that may now forever change the political map of Bengal. This poses a particularly tough challenge for Mamata. She tried everything from competitive communalism, popularism, to vicious attacks against the prime minister to prep up her cadres and supporter base, but the way the cookie is crumbling it seems that Mamata, who had BJP supporters detained by her police for shouting Jai Sri Ram slogans, will have to endure the drumbeats of BJP’s chants for some time.
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Updated Date: May 23, 2019 15:09:33 IST