Trinamool neutralises growing influence of BJP

Trinamool neutralises growing influence of BJP, Gorkhaland activists in North Bengal

The failure of the polarisation of the Hindu votes by the BJP has contributed majorly behind BJP's losing ground in North Bengal

Trinamool Congress has also been successful in neutralising GJM ensuring the party's increasing popularity in Darjeeling and Terai region. Credit: PTI File Photo

In the last six months after Trinamool Congress came to power for the third time in a row there has been a reversal of political equations in North Bengal. A major portion of the seven districts of North Bengal, that was once considered to be forte for the BJP, has shifted its support base in favour of the ruling party making it more difficult for the saffron brigade to stay relevant in the political dialogue of the state.

Going by the results in the last Lok Sabha election in 2019, the BJP made strong inroads into the traditional vote base of the Trinamool Congress after taking a lead in 45 of the 54 Assembly segments spread across seven North Bengal districts, including Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda. This substantial lead in the Assembly segments allowed the BJP to win in 7 of the 8 Lok Sabha seats and thus registering an all-time record of winning 18 Lok Sabha seats.

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However, in the recently concluded Assembly elections though the BJP maintained its supremacy by winning 30 of the 54 seats, it was strongly challenged by the ruling Trinamool Congress that won 24 constituencies. The BJP retained its forte in four districts, namely Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling getting 21 out of the total 26 seats, but in the rest of the three districts, namely North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda, the Trinamool Congress wrested 19 out of the 28 seats.

That Trinamool Congress was strongly taking away grounds from the BJP became more apparent in the recent bye-election where Udhayan Guha won the Dinhata seat by a record margin of 1,64,088 votes even forfeiting the caution money of BJP's Ashoke Mondal. Interestingly enough the Dinhata seat in Coochbehar was won by Nishit Pramanik by a slim margin, but Pramanik decided to retain his Lok Sabha seat and so he resigned. Praminik later became the Union minister of State for home.

Though Mamata Banerjee has visited North Bengal several times to iron out the differences among the people and the party workers, political experts are of the opinion that the saffron camp committed certain political blunders for which they had to pay a heavy price. The primary among them was the fanning of the secessionist idea to form a new state in North Bengal.

This demand is not a new one. Its origins can be found in the late 1960s, when the Congress lost power for the first time in the state but managed to win a majority of seats in North Bengal. A breakaway faction from the Congress formed a party named 'Uttarkhand' which raised the demand for a separate North Bengal. But this was seen as an attempt to hold on to power by any means and therefore, it failed to garner widespread support from the people. Eventually 'Uttarkhand' vanished from the political landscape of North Bengal. The BJP may well be going in the same direction. This was the first election in North Bengal after this issue was raised by the BJP. The AITC, which opposed the division of the state, saw an increase in its vote share.

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The failure of the polarisation of the Hindu votes by the BJP has contributed majorly behind BJP's losing ground in North Bengal. Survey data showed that the BJP succeeded in getting 50 per cent of the Hindu votes in 2021 compared to 57 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Assembly election results showed that the state was still going through a phase of communal polarisation. But in the bypoll, the BJP could get only 11 per cent votes in Dinhata, where Hindus form almost 70 per cent of the electorate. Even if all 11 per cent were Hindus, it would mean that the BJP couldn't get even 20 per cent of the Hindu votes.

Trinamool Congress has also been successful in neutralising GJM ensuring the party's increasing popularity in Darjeeling and Terai region. Mamata Banerjee has not only been successful in convincing the GJM to climb down from their earlier demand of forming Gorkhaland but also brought all the top GJM leadership into the party fold. The Trinamool Congress not only managed to get the support of GJM leader Bimal Gurung and Roshan Giri but the recent entry of Binoy Tamang and Rohit Sharma into the party has diminished the BJP's possibility of extending the party influence in the hills.

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