Civic body polls often go in favour of the ruling party in a given state with the exception of a few municipalities where a certain party is deeply entrenched — for example, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ruled by the BJP and the Shiv Sena respectively for several consecutive terms. The predictability, besides the belief that political parties are not the right entities to run local bodies, is one reason that makes Sirf News not so excited about any civic body election. This made us refrain from reporting the Kolkata and other civic bodies’ election results yesterday. But a new trend has emerged in the Kolkata civic election that merits a comment. In an interval of a mere eight months, the CPI(M)’s popularity has risen by about 15% even as, in the last two decades, there has been a steady rise in the reach of the Trinamool Congress in the state. What Kolkata saw yesterday has never happened before. There is not a single instance where a political party has increased its vote share by so many percentage points in just eight months. On the other hand, regardless of the number of seats the Trinamool Congress won, the ruling party’s vote share grew steadily to 57.55% in this year’s assembly election. According to preliminary estimates from the Election Commission on 21 December, the Trinamool Congress’s share of votes was at least 72%. The record of their success is even stronger in terms of turnout. In the last Lok Sabha election of 2019, the Trinamool Congress had got 50.6% of the vote. Now it has increased by more than 20%. There is a lesson for it for the BJP that has been pushed to the third position by the CPI(M).
After Bengalis, who were dissatisfied with the Trinamool Congress rule, failed to make the BJP understand what works in their state, with the so-called saffron party employing typical north Indian tactics like the slogan of “Jai Sri Ram” in the land of Kali, fielding turncoats from the enemy camp in large numbers and pitting the lower castes against the upper, people have deserted the national party in droves once again for its sheer cowardice. If the union government looked on helplessly when CBI officials were detained by Kolkata Police two years before the election and it spoke with a plaintive voice when it exhibited its murdered cadre hanging from the trees of rural and small-town Bengal on Twitter, the central leadership of the party just looked the other way when the Trinamool Congress workers spearheaded by Muslims attacked voters in identified BJP pockets with a vengeance, raping women and murdering men. This has made the locals look back with hope at a local party, which is what essentially the communists have always been.
As said on multiple occasions by this columnist in various public forums including Sirf News, Bengalis are not necessarily communist; they chose the CPI(M) as an alternative to the New Delhi-based Indian National Congress in 1977 and have begun looking at the BJP as another Congress or another Delhi-centric party that is not only geographically confined but also the outlook of which is sociologically parochial and humanly callous. They are seeing in Prime Minister Narendra Modi another Indira or Rajiv Gandhi who couldn’t care less when Bengal Congress workers were butchered in the streets of Kolkata and towns in broad daylight by communist henchmen. If they leave the Trinamool Congress in the foreseeable future, they are going back to the Left Front just as Uttar Pradesh had settled alternately for the Samajwadi Party and the BSP and Tamil Nadu had found the substitute in an alternating cycle of DMK and AIADMK rules. All these states made the point of regional assertion and not a choice of leftist or rightist ideologies. The point is their belief that a local party cares, a Delhi-centric organisation does not.
The victory of the Trinamool Congress does not deserve bold, front-page headlines on the front page except in local newspapers, as the current ruling party of Bengal has been witnessing massive electoral success since 2009 following Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Nandigram fiasco. After assuming power in the state in 2011, the Trinamool Congress has increased its strength in the 2016 and 2021 assembly elections. But for so long, the gap between one milestone and another has been narrow save now when the improvement from 50.6% to 57.55% to 72% is remarkable. This again is a mark of regional assertion. This must ring alarm bells in the war room of the BJP.
Out of 144 wards in Kolkata, 134 went to the Trinamool Congress. Local news mediums had all predicted it. Opposition parties had called for a boycott of the by-election, but neither they nor the ruling party had anticipated anything like 72%. Many these days find Kolkata a city of the woke, but that does not explain the landslide either.