BJP is set to continue its upward trend, performance wise, in the West Bengal Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The latest CNX Poll for India TV suggests that BJP’s vote share may rise from about 17% in 2014 to 27.77% in 2019, while TMC’s vote share may fall by 3.6% to 36.2%. This trend is indeed worrying for the TMC and the party has already smelled danger given the kind of violence its party workers resorted to against BJP and RSS workers and candidates.
The BJP is doing consistently well in the state rising up from its abysmal presence in 2013. In the 2013 Panchayat elections, BJP could field candidates for only 9000 seats out of 58,692 seats and received only 3% of the vote. In 2016, the BJP won only 3 assembly seats but with about 10.3% of the vote share reflecting a vote base scattered across the state. And in the Lok Sabha elections it had won 2 seats out of 42 with 17.02% of the vote.
But in the Panchayat polls this year the BJP’s persistence proved fruitful. The saffron party fielded 34,507 candidates surpassing the CPM and winning nearly 40% of the panchayat seats in backward Naxal-affected districts bordering Jharkhand. Making big gains in tribal areas, in Purulia, after the killings of two party workers, it acquired 43% of the seats and in Jhargram it got 48%. Even in the bypolls the BJP saw a rise in vote share emerging as the main opposition party, such as in LS seat of Uluberia, with Muslim population of about 40%, where it saw its vote share rise from about 11% to 23.29% and in assembly seat of Mahetsala where it got 35% of the vote from 8% previously. These gains have placed BJP as the strongest opposition party leaving Mamata Banerjee worried.
These gains are primarily owed to TMC’s violent foot-soldiers and its neglect of the tribal people. When the Kurmi Mahatos, a relatively well off community, were removed from the Other Backward Classes category and were granted the Scheduled Caste status, the tribals felt further alienated. Corruption in ration distribution has also been a persistent complaint. Amid all this, the RSS has gained ground due to its self-less welfare work such as the running of its schools in severely backward areas.
Furthermore, CM Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement policies have failed and have not only antagonized the Hindus but the persistent molly coddling of Muslims have resulted in a blowback as well. Her outrageous stance on the NRC and the sheer audacity with which she aims to politicize and reap votes from the illegal immigrant population has further exposed her neglect for West Bengal ‘s progress.
In such an atmosphere, it may be possible for the BJP to perform spectacularly in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections just as it did in the nation in 2014, when it won 282 seats and the Congress was reduced to 44, despite most opinion and exit polls predicting far lesser numbers for the BJP.
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