'Messages sent out by Modi were so clear and focused that people found in them an assured relief from the 10 years of United Progressive Alliance ‘misrule’.'
'There are no new faces in the front. When will the party realise that octogenarians need to step aside to make room for the young leaders?'
Indrani Roy/Rediff.com explains what strengthened the saffron party’s foothold in this eastern region of the country
May 16, 2014, will be etched deep in the history of Indian politics. When Bharatiya Janata Party loyalists across India were busy celebrating the thumping victory of their party, the saffron party quietly made inroads into elusive Bengal.
Before the election results were announced, many political pundits had doubts if the BJP would manage to retain its single seat in the state. But the results surprised one and all.
As the Narendra Modi wave swept the country, his party not only managed to win two berths in Bengal (in the form of singer-turned Babul Supriyo from Asansol and BJP national vice president Surinder Singh Ahluwalia from Darjeeling) but it also bagged as much as 19 per cent vote share, a hefty rise from around six per cent in the last election.
The media have been agog with forecast that Bengal would see an unprecedented rise of the BJP in this election.
But few could foresee that the increase would be of this proportion.
Understanding the BJP’s rise
Left parties hoped that the popular craze for the saffron wave would eat into Trinamool Congress’s vote bank substantially to their advantage, but the results upset all aspirations. The Left was reduced to a pathetic two-seat existence while its arch-rival the TC won as many as 34 seats.
What strengthened the BJP’s foothold in Bengal?
Politicians had diverse views.
According to Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Mohammad Salim, people of Bengal were desperately looking for a third alternative.
“In any election, the middle-class has a decisive role,” Salim told rediff.com. “A large section of them had turned anti-Left a few years ago and they had voted the Trinamool Congress to power thinking the latter would bring the much-needed poriborton (change).
“However, they soon got wary of the TMC’s high-handedness and started looking for a third alternative,” Salim said. “This group comprising the anti-Left yet suspicious-of-Trinamool opted for the BJP,” the CPI-M leader told rediff.com.
Veteran BJP leader Tathagata Roy endorsed Salim’s ‘third option formula’. Having lost to TMC leader Subrata Bakshi from Kolkata Dakshin constituency, Roy attributed his party’s rise in Bengal to the irresistible Modi wave.
“Messages sent out by Modi were so clear and focused that people found in them an assured relief from the 10 years of United Progressive Alliance ‘misrule’,” Roy told rediff.com.
Moreover, ‘maladministration’ by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was another reason for a significant rise in BJP votes, Roy said.
“If there was less violence and rigging, especially in the last phase, our party would have fared even better,” he added.
Taking the cue from Roy, former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee was of the opinion that in many polling booths, Trinamool Congress had resorted to unfair practices.
“If the elections were free and fair in the real sense of the terms, the Left wouldn’t have gone home with a mere two seats,” Chatterjee told rediff.com.
However, he also felt it was high time the Left Front realigned its central leadership. “There are no new faces in the front. When will the party realise that octogenarians need to step aside to make room for the young leaders?” Chatterjee told rediff.com.
“Instead of capitalising on the TMC’s loopholes and utilising them to their advantage, the Left leaders alienated themselves further from the people,” Chatterjee said.
“A huge void was created as a result and BJP wasted no time in filling it,” he said.
Despite her thunderous victory, Mamata kept sulking the whole of Friday afternoon.
It was difficult for her to swallow that a certain ‘insignificant intruder’ called Narendra Modi was on his way to adorn the prime minister’s chair and that he did not need her support.
It’s a great shocker for the TMC chief.
For, it not only dashed her ‘dreams’ of an emerging Third Front but also prevented her from being a centrifugal force to reckon with at the Centre. Her national ambitions took a major beating this time.
In this election, Mamata emerged a lioness achieving a major victory in her lair only to discover that she was too lonely at the top. During the last lap of campaigning, Mamata systematically spewed venom against NaMo in her aggressive bid to woo the Muslim voters, but now she dreads the vindictive course of action that India’s new prime minister might unleash on her.
The recently started Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the much ‘acclaimed’ Saradha scam hangs like the Sword of Damocles over her head.
She can neither be the queen nor the kingmaker.
She had always aspired to rule over Delhi, but sadly, it would be the other way around.
And with a visible increase in the BJP’s vote share, Mamata would have many a frown on her forehead while preparing for the West Bengal assembly elections due in a couple of years.
With both the Left and the Congress being marginalised, the BJP will be her major opposition in that battle. And by indulging in several populist measures such as offering doles for the imams or bicycles only for Muslim girls, the West Bengal chief minister has herself helped the Hindu-Muslim polarisation in the state in the last few years.
Though her hurling abuses at NaMo in this election helped her draw minority votes in huge numbers, but for the assembly elections of 2016, Banerjee would need a stronger and more sustainable tool to combat Modi’s forces.
Till then, the going will indeed be tough for the TMC supremo.