Reasons behind the saffron surge in Bengal

BJP candidate Raju Bista of Darjeeling constituency flashes the victory sign towards supporters during a victory rally in Siliguri. (AFP Photo)

BJP’s stunning success in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha elections may have been surprising to many.

The saffron party’s victory in 18 seats in Bengal, compared to two seats in the last Lok Sabha elections and the TMC tally coming down from 34 in 2014 to 22 this time is an outcome of several factors.

BJP’s success in Bengal most likely came at the expense of the vote share of the CPM-led Left Front, which ruled the state for 34 years.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front had got 29.93% votes in Bengal and the BJP got 17.02% votes.

But this time, the Left Front’s vote share has come down to 7.46%, while the BJP’s vote share jumped up to 40.25%. However, from 39.77% in 2014, the TMC has increased its vote share this time to 43.28%.

This clearly shows that a large chunk of the Left Front’s vote went to the BJP.

The largely bipolar contest between the TMC and BJP have also contributed to the success of the latter.

Unlike the four-cornered contest in the last Lok Sabha elections, when the TMC benefited from the division of votes between the Left Front, Congress and BJP and bagged 34 seats, this time, the majority of the anti-TMC votes went to the BJP. It boosted the saffron party’s tally from two to 18 in Bengal.

BJP’s impressive performance in last year’s panchayat elections in the districts of Bankura, Purulia and Jhargram, where it got a substantial number of tribal votes, contributed to its success this time. It has emerged victorious in all the four constituencies in these districts.

Last year, the BJP bagged 33% of the gram panchayat seats in Purulia, which has 20% tribal population. As for Jhargram, which has 30% tribal population, the BJP got 42% of the gram panchayat seats.

TMC’s strong-arm tactics, which resulted in the Opposition parties being unable to file nomination in 34% of the seats during the Panchayat elections, seems to have greatly damaged the party’s electoral fortune.

Apparently, a large chunk of the electorate, including Left Front supporters, voted for BJP “to teach TMC a lesson”. Out of the 27 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal located in rural areas, the BJP won in nearly half of them.

The saffron party’s tactics of religious polarisation, with activities such as organising armed Ram Navami rallies, accusing the TMC government of creating hurdles for Hindu religious festivals, seems to have worked successfully.

The BJP’s strategy of engineering defection in the TMC also worked, as, with the exception of the Jadavpur constituency, the four other turncoats fielded by it, including one from CPM, have emerged victorious.

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