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Trinamool Congress brushes aside BJP, pollsters

Trinamool Congress brushes aside BJP, pollsters

There was never any question of the BJP improving on its 2019 performance, which was aided by the en bloc transfer to it of the Left vote.

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Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 11:10 IST
Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 11:10 IST
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The big losers in the 2024 general elections are the opinion pollsters who’ve got everything spectacularly wrong. The combative showing of the Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.) frames the national context. The great showing of the Congress means the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will not get a majority on its own.

Of the many local subplots, West Bengal offers a compelling instance. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has put up a superb exhibition of election management to swamp both the pollsters and the BJP. This should come as no surprise to those who’ve been following the political scene in West Bengal generally over the past few months, and the election campaign and preparations in particular.

There was never any question of the BJP improving on its 2019 performance, which was aided by the en bloc transfer to it of the Left vote, especially that of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M). It was also almost certain that the BJP would end up with a significant loss of seats. Those following the situation on the ground had been expecting the BJP to finish with somewhere around 10 seats, and the TMC to get close to 30. That’s how it’s played out at the time of writing.

Currently, it is not possible to talk of how voting percentages are panning out, because the numbers are not yet available. Obviously, the BJP has failed to hold on to the roughly 40 per cent it garnered last time out, but it is by no means certain that the TMC has increased its approximately 50 per cent of the vote. The provisional conclusion is that the Left increased its vote share at the expense of the BJP. That would be in line with what we’ve noted in these columns.

Many factors went against the BJP. At a general level, there were many infirmities in the way the nomination process was conducted — dilatoriness gave the TMC a head-start in campaigning; shuffling winning candidates around unsettled the party; and picking nobodies to contest from TMC strongholds could not exactly have lifted cadre morale.

But much was hypothetically going against the TMC as well, mainly in the shape of corruption allegations and cases — the long list encompasses the education and ration scams, the coal-pilferage case, and cattle smuggling. Of these, the first two affected people directly. And then there was Sandeshkhali.

The TMC leadership batted these away easily. A Supreme Court of India order of May 7 staying the cancellation of over 25,000 jobs in schools allowed the TMC to turn the spotlight on the BJP’s ‘complicity’ in depriving people of their livelihoods, thus deflecting attention from the corruption allegations.

The ration scam was on the backburner anyway, while a series of sting videos and retractions by supposed victims of sexual exploitation nullified the BJP’s Sandeshkhali thrust.

The BJP also repeated mistakes on the campaign trail. As during the 2021 Assembly election campaign, the BJP relied on big guns from out of state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi held over 20 rallies, while Union Home Minister Amit Shah came close to matching that number. BJP president J P Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chef Minister Adityanath, and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma were in the foreground. The only West Bengal leader who was visible was Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari.

This had two effects. First, there was a lack of connect, especially with the rural language. Hindi is not commonly comprehended in the vast rural hinterlands. Second, it allowed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others to hammer home the notion that the BJP is a party of outsiders.

Suhit K Sen is author of ‘The Paradox of Populism: The Indira Gandhi Years, 1966-1977’.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH).

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