The 2019 general elections are set to disrupt the political game for many political parties. Uttar Pradesh has already been seeing SP and BSP scrambling to save their political ground from the BJP, however, the most interesting situation seems to be emerging in the state of West Bengal, which sends 42 members to the Lok Sabha, third highest in the country.
Mamata Banerjee, who is already been struggling with law and order situation in the state, has also been trying to consolidate its voter base. The last Panchayat elections in West Bengal saw a newfound support for the BJP, which has created momentum, that is sure to be carried forward in the 2019 general elections and hurt TMC’s electoral plans.
A report published in The Gaze by DR. Praveen Patil provides a good insight into BJP’s meteoric rise in the green field state. According to the report, in the 2018 Panchayat elections in West Bengal, the BJP was successful in fielding 34507 candidates that is a whopping 25507 candidates more than the last panchayat elections in 2013. This not only indicates towards BJP’s increasing influence in rural Bengal but also towards change in peoples attitude to come out openly in opposition to Mamata’s strong arm rule in the state. The vote share also increased from a mere 3% in 2013 to 23% in the 2018 panchayat elections, which is a whopping 666% increase in the voter base in rural Bengal.
The report also indicates the growth of BJP’s organization in West Bengal over the period of five years since 2014. In the 2014 general elections BJP had polling booth infrastructure at just 21000 polling booths out of the total approximate 78000 polling booths in the state, however, in 5 years BJP has increased its presence in nearly another 42000 polling booths taking the total tally to around 62000 polling booths of the state.
However, the most important finding of the report is the nearly equal voter support for the TMC and the BJP based on the research “Our teams have travelled across the state and we have counter checked all our findings at least three times to come to this surprising conclusion of BJP and TMC being equal in terms of voter support at this point of time.”
However, these are just the findings from the sample of total voters who have decided their choice. The report also points towards a total of 21% of the voters that are still undecided. These undecided number of voters is a huge number in considering electoral realities where seats are sometimes won with a difference of less than a couple of hundred votes. The sway of this undecided 21% of the electors will surely determine the number of seats BJP wins despite its meteoric rise in the voter base.
Considering the demographics of West Bengal, Muslim voters have traditionally favored the Left and now the TMC. However, the remaining non-Muslim chunk of the 21% can invariably be attracted to the BJP. TMC’s appeasement politics has polarized the state with Hindus favoring alternate options to the TMC. Left is also at a disadvantage as it has been replaced by the BJP as the main opposition in the state. Similarly, Congress is already out of the picture given its non-significant and continually declining voter support. Bengal has a sizable 27% of Muslim population according to the 2011 Census.
The results of the 2018 Bengal Panchayat elections also indicated towards Hindu voter base siding with the BJP. BJP’s massive push with multiple rallies planned in West Bengal and success in attracting leaders of the TMC into its fold is likely to woo the undecided voters in the state.
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