For TMC and BJP, swing in Left, Congress votes can be crucial...

For TMC and BJP, swing in Left, Congress votes can be crucial in Bengal polls

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For TMC and BJP, swing in Left, Congress votes can be crucial in Bengal polls

Dated : 17 Jan 2021 (IST)

By Tanmay Chatterjee

Analysis of the 2019 poll results showed that the biggest contributor to the BJP’s stunning performance in Bengal were voters who were loyal to the CPI(M) and its partners for more than three decades.

For the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal contenders in the upcoming West Bengal assembly election, change in vote share of the Left and Congress may play a crucial role although the latter has weakened significantly in the districts since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress and the Left Front partners, headed by the CPI (M), contested as allies in the 2016 assembly polls but could not stop the TMC from retaining power with 211 out of the state’s 294 seats. Since the Congress benefited more from the alliance and wrested 44 seats against the Left’s 32, the tie-up did not last.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress and the Left contested as opponents but it was the BJP that turned heads by winning 18 of the state’s 42 seats, thanks to a huge swing in Left votes towards the saffron camp.

This time around, the bigger stakeholders in Bengal politics feel that the smaller parties, especially the CPI(M), cannot be taken lightly because assembly polls are fought on local issues and Muslim voters and farmers will play a decisive role.

In some of her recent rallies, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee took a seemingly softer stance towards the CPI (M) while her follower-turned electoral foe Suvendu Adhikari has openly appealed to Left and Congress workers to help the BJP oust the ruling party. “I appeal to our friends in Left Front and Congress to attend rallies of their parties but vote for us in the interest of Bengal,” Adhikari said at a rally in West Burdwan district on Tuesday.

Analysis of the 2019 poll results showed that the biggest contributor to the BJP’s stunning performance were voters who were d loyal to the CPI(M) and its partners for more than three decades. Out of 40 Left candidates in the race, 39 lost their election deposit as they failed to secure one sixth of the votes cast in their respective seats.

The phenomenon was seen even in East Midnapore district, Suvendu Adhikari’s home turf, where the TMC won. His father, two-time TMC MP Sisir Adhikari, got 50% votes in the Kanthi seat but the BJP secured 42% while CPI(M) ended third with 5.3 %. In 2014 and 2009, Adhikari won the seat but the CPI (M) came second with 34.72 % and 42.5 % respectively. It was apparent that the bulk of the votes for the CPI (M) in the past went to BJP’s kitty last year.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the TMC was not in power in Bengal, the Left Front secured 43.3% votes but won only 15 seats. In comparison, 19 seats went to the TMC although Mamata Banerjee had a lower vote share of 31.18%. In that election, the BJP got only 6.14% votes and one seat in Bengal.

The BJP has dramatically improved its position since then, winning two Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 18 seats in 2019. Seen in terms of assembly segments, the BJP is already ahead of the others in 122 assembly seats in 2021 while the TMC is ahead in 163.

In terms of vote share in the 2019 polls, the TMC got 43.69 % in 2019 against 40.64 % secured by the BJP. The CPI (M)’s vote share came down to 6.34 % while the Congress got only 5.67%.

“Neither the Left nor the Congress ever supported the BJP. These parties should either secure their own votes or support us,” said TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson Saugata Roy.

“TMC and BJP leaders are daydreaming. The Left-Congress alternative is the answer to the TMC’s misrule in Bengal and the BJP’s policies at the Centre. People will give these parties a befitting reply,” said Sujan Chakraborty, CPI (M) legislator and leader of the Left parties in the assembly.

According to the 2011 census, Bengal’s population stood at 91.3 million. It is projected to reach 101.9 million in 2021 and around 30 % comprise Muslims. The census showed that around 68.13% of the population lives in villages of rural areas where the literacy rate was 72.13% in 2011.

Veteran political commentator and columnist Suvashis Maitra said if the CPI (M) regains even one vote then it will be at the cost of the BJP.

“The TMC cannot possibly lose more than what it has already lost. Rather, it may win some additional Muslim votes. If the CPI (M) makes some gains then it will be because of the extensive relief work it carried out after cyclone Amphan and the community kitchens has been running across Bengal since the pandemic began. A section of Left voters who shifted allegiance to the BJP in 2019 may vote for the Marxists again,” said Maitra.

“Election is a game of possibilities and our party is ready to take on the challenge. But one must bear in mind that the CPI (M) has nothing to offer to its supporters because it simply cannot come to power,” a BJP vice-president said on condition of anonymity.