By Satyaki Chakraborty
All on a sudden, there has been a shift in the mood of the voters in West Bengal which is going to the eight phase polls for the state assembly beginning March 27. The BJP which entered the battle with great gusto and confidence armed with its massive financial resources, organisational muscle of RSS and unprecedented personal involvement of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in this Mahabharata war, finds itself in a bind just ten days before the start of the polling.
The BJP’s script is not moving as desired. The big enthusiasm which marked the cadres, especially the younger ones, has come down in the last few days and the leaders themselves including the central leaders, are at a loss to find out what is missing now just close to the polling day. The meetings organised by the BJP with big fanfare and money power, are failing to attract crowds compared to what was the scene two weeks back. Even those who are present, are not responding. In Home Minister’s meeting on Monday in Bankura, he asked the response of the people present to his slogans, there were few voices in response. The sulky HM left the meeting grumbling. The other meeting at Jhargram had to be cancelled in the morning as he got reports that there were very few people present in the meeting ground.
This is a completely changed scenario compared to when the BJP entered the campaign. What has happened in the last two weeks that has had its impact on the campaign mood in Bengal disfavouring BJP? Indications suggest that this has nothing to do with the organisational strength of the Trinamool Congress in meeting the challenge of the BJP campaign. The mood of unresponsiveness to the BJP has to do with some change in the perception of the floating voters who switched over to the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections. Also, there is a definite shift in a section of the Congress and Left voters who preferred BJP against Trinamool Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In 2019 elections, the Congress got 5.67 per cent votes showing a dip by 4.09 per cent compared to 2016 assembly elections. Similarly the CPI(M) led Left Front got only 6.33 per cent votes in 2019 recording dip of 16.66 per cent. This was unusual and all signs indicate that there can be a return of a minimum 7 to 8 per cent of the left voters back to the Left-Congress-ISF alliance in 2021 elections. But this will not help the alliance in a large number of seats. It will be helpful in seats where the alliance is already in fighting distance. Those seats were very few in the earlier election. This shift of the Congress and Left vote will go against the BJP and help Trinamool candidates in many marginal seats.
Both the Trinamool and the BJP have secured minimum support base throughout the state now. Only in a few seats, both the parties are in a position to win on the basis of their own organiational strength. Otherwise, in most case, the results depend on the switch in the l moment of the floating voters who decide on local and other issues. The BJP has to depend in a big way on the swing of the floating voters in favour of their candidates. In 2019 elections, the BJP got full benefit of the shift of the floating voters ranging from 15 to 20 per cent to them. They mostly belonged to the CPI(M) and the Congress, now even if fifty per cent of those go back to the alliance fold that will only lead to the fall of BJP support and in a large number of marginal seats, that will give advantage to Trinamool.
There are two recent developments which have gone against the BJP. The campaign of the farmer leader like Rakesh Tikait in Bengal in the last few days has gone against the BJP taking into account the farmer voters in the districts which are crucial for BJP. Tikait has candidly told the farmer to vote against the BJP. This appeal will help Trinamool more than the Left Congress — since the Trinamool has more possibility of defeating BJP compared to the third combination.
The Muslims comprise 27 per cent of the voters in Bengal. A big shift to ISF of Abbas Siddiqui is sure to go against Trinamool, but base report show that is not going to ISF. There will be some shift from Trinamool but that will be miniscule and there will be broad consolidation of minority voters behind Chief Minister. Similarly, the women empowerment will go against BJP in Bengal elections. The schemes introduced by CM have given immense benefit to women, especially the health scheme. The women are the head and this made huge impact. The BJP will find it difficult to ignore them just talking about corruption.
With the date of polling coming close, the BJP leadership will be faced with many hard realities on the ground and their performance will depend on how the party tackles with these. Just money power and muscle power may not be able to achieve success. Time has come for the saffron to do reality check in Bengal. (IPA Service)