West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (AITC) on Sunday beat the BJP in the assembly elections with a massive margin. However, despite the decisive defeat, the BJP has some reasons to cheer about.
Union Home Minister former BJP president Amit Shah kept claiming throughout the election campaign that his party would cross the 200-mark in the 294-member assembly when he said “abki baar, 200 paar”. However, the BJP was way behind the 100-mark leave alone touching the halfway number of 147 seats.
In an embarrassment for the BJP, its stalwarts such as Union minister Babul Supriyo, former Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta and Lok Sabha MP Locket Chatterjee fell like ninepins.
The opposition and the media might consider BJP a ‘communal’ and ‘polarising’ party, but it pushed neither NRC nor CAA or spoke of Bangladeshi infiltrators to stand up for the threatened Hindu of West Bengal. Did Scheduled Caste (SC) votes consolidate? The party carried out what can at best be called a whisper campaign to suggest the Dalits had got a raw deal from the Brahmins and Kayasthas of the state but never quite explicitly stated it.
It remained to be seen whether Muslims would pull it off for the AITC or SCs for the BJP. Finally, it appears that while the Muslims put their weight behind Mamata, the SCs votes did not consolidate in favour of the BJP.
The assembly election result is a dampener for the BJP if compared with the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. It had won 18 of the 42 seats and taken a lead on 121 of the 294 assembly segments by garnering a 40.2% vote share.
However, in this election, it won 77 seats — 44 seats less than the lead it had taken in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The BJP’s vote share also fell to 38.13% — a loss of 2.07%.
Despite these losses, the BJP still has some reasons to cheer about. It has travelled a long distance since the 2011 assembly election when it had failed to open its account and had polled just a 4% vote share.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when it won two seats, it had polled an 18% vote share. In the 2016 assembly election, it bagged three seats and garnered a 10% vote share.
In this election, it has won 77 seats — an increase of 74 seats. It has polled a 38.13% vote share — a jump of 28.13%.
The BJP has dislodged the Left and the INC, which had ruled the state for 64 years since independence, and has become the only opposition party. While both the Left parties and the INC drew a blank in an unprecedented result, Rashtriya Secular Majlis Party (RSMP) and an independent won one seat each.
The national party has created its own cadre and leadership in the state. The well-oiled election machinery would come to its aid in the 2024 Lok Sabha and next assembly elections.
The other major redeeming factor for the BJP is the victory of its “giant killer” Suvendu Adhikari over chief minister and AITC supremo Mamata Banerjee from Nandigram by 1956 votes in a keenly fought contest.
After Mamata threw in the gauntlet, Adhikari accepted the challenge and declared that he would quit politics if he did not defeat the chief minister by half a lakh votes.
Though he could not trounce Mamata by 50,000 votes, he managed to defeat her by a slender margin. This diluted AITC’s victory and would force her to get re-elected as an MLA in the next six months.