By Nitya Chakraborty
The results of the three by polls in West Bengal announced on Sunday indicate major signals for the coming period of the state politics as also the shaping of the opposition unity on national plane to fight the BJP in the coming state assembly elections in 2022 and 2023 culminating in the Lok Sabha elections in April/May 2024.
First, about the impact on the state politics. The analysis of the results shows the continuation of the trend seen in 2019 Lok Sabha elections followed by the state assembly elections in March/April 2021.The Bengal electorate are polarised between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. The trend first became prominent in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, then it got further strengthened in 2021 assembly elections and now, five months later , the same trend continues, though the difference is that TMC is making some improvement as against BJP, its main contender in the state displacing the Congress and the Left Front.
After 2006 assembly elections, the then Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya of the CPI(M) told the agitating Trinamool members in the assembly ‘ We are 235, they are 30’. After 15 years, Mamata can say, We are 213, they are zero. It is really a pathetic situation for the Left in Bengal, especially the CPI(M) which ruled the state like a lord from 1977 to March 2011. In Bhabanipur by poll, TMC candidate Mamata Banerjee got 71.99 per cent, BJP candidate 22.29 per cent and the CPI(M) candidate 3.56 per cent. In the other two constituencies, in Samsherganj, the Congress did well by becoming the second party ahead of the BJP and gave a close fight, but the left candidate was fourth behind BJP. In Jangipur, the Congress fared worse proving that its biggest district base Murshidabad has fallen to TMC.
Bhabanipur constituency is called mini India as it is the only constituency in South Kolkata where the non- Bengalees consisting of Gujaratis, Punjabis, Biharis and UP wallas are substantial constituting about 46 per cent of the electorate. Mamata was ahead in all eight wards including those primarily dominated by Gujaratis whose biggest concentration is in Bhabanipur constituency. This is a vindication of Mamata’s acceptability as a pan India leader cutting across all communities and religions.
The immediate upshot of the by poll results will be on the coming four by polls scheduled for October 30 this year to be followed later by the holding of the elections to the municipalities which are pending due to the pandemic. As the trends indicate Mamata has built a strong base of her own among the women, both old and young, minorities and both urban and rural poor. In last Lok Sabha elections, there were many cases in which people said that they were angry with TMC workers at base level but trust the CM as pro-people and that is why they would vote for Trinamool candidates thinking CM would restrain her cadres. This is a big political capital for Trinamool at the moment and as long as this lasts, TMC will rule.
Now this strengthening of the TMC and more ammo to Mamata’s acceptability as the most successful leader of the opposition possessing the killer instinct to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is a 24×7 party worker and a leader with managerial and technical skills, poses the question is Mamata really prepared to position himself as the leader of the opposition at the national level taking advantage of the Congress’ especially Rahul Gandhi’s difficulties.TMC leaders including general secretary Abhishek Banerjee are loud in claiming that Mamata is the only candidate of the opposition capable of taking on Narendra Modi. TMC has proved its mettle by constantly defeating BJP while Congress leader Rahul is losing. Opposition needs a winner, not a loser, they say.
There is some truth in what these leaders are saying, but Mamata has always maintained that the issue of the potential PM candidate is not on the agenda now. The opposition has to unite and fight BJP and only through that, the future leader of the opposition to challenge Narendra Modi will emerge. Mamata has to stick to this position if she really believes in giving a united fight to the BJP which has started taking course correction and is in a far battle ready mode than the divided opposition, especially the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi is facing odds in different states. The organisation is in a mess. Rahul has no de jure standing in the Congress high command but he is conducting all negotiations and now Priyanka Gandhi has joined her, making it a full family affair. In fact, the Gandhi family has big attraction for a large number of congressmen, if Sonia Gandhi is serious in strengthening the High Command, she can make Rahul acting President or working President and give official recognition to his status. Kapil Sibal is right when he says we do not know who is the head of the party. A party like the Congress which is facing the BJP in 200 seats out of 543 Lok Sabha seats as the major party, is not expected to function in this ad hoc manner. A weak Congress is a loss to the opposition and its decline will only be a gain for BJP since that gap may not be filled by any other anti-BJP party.
The festival season has already started in the country and there will not be much high octane political activities at national level till the second week of November. The state assembly elections to the five states Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Khand, Goa and Manipur are due in February/March 2022. After the festival season only three months will be left. Excepting UP, the Congress is expected to fight as the major party in other four states against the BJP. But the ground situation is changing. In Goa, many senior Congress leaders including former Chief Minister have joined Trinamool. The Congress is not in the best of health in Goa. AAP is also highly active and posing a big challenge to the BJP. The question comes what will happen if three anti BJP parties fight BJP in the state. Even with a lower percentage of votes, BJP will win in the elections. AAP will not have any alliance with the Congress. In order to consolidate anti-BJP votes, can TMC enter into alliance with the Congress in Goa instead of fighting on its own?
These are new issues which have emerged. If Mamata believes in the maximum mobilisation of anti-BJP votes to defeat BJP in elections, in both state and national level, she should try to implement that on ground.TMC is poaching Congress leaders from Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya. Congress leadership must be miffed but the high command has to admit that if senior leaders leave the Congress and join TMC, there must be some reason. TMC’s forays can not be combated if the Congress itself can not emerge as a dynamic and kicking organisation. The responsibility lies on Rahul Gandhi and his group of leaders who are now managing affairs in the party.
Opposition including the Congress has to show its united mettle in combating BJP, despite some clash of interests between the two constituents like Trinamool and Congress. Rahul Gandhi has a big responsibility in mobilizing the party cadres and Congress following masses for the victory of its candidates in the coming assembly elections. This is a big test for Rahul. The leadership is not imposed nationally, it has to be acquired through hard labour and victory in battles. Mamata has earned that. Now it is Rahul’s turn. If he can achieve some amount of success in the next assembly elections, his stature will be strengthened and all the talk in the opposition camp about his failure, will disappear. A solid combination of the Congress and the regional parties is the only guarantee of ensuring success in the 2024 Lok Sabha poll. Both Mamata and Rahul would have to act as the double engines of this opposition march towards 2024 to oust the BJP from power. (IPA Service)