Last three phases in West Bengal election hold the key to the result tomorrow
Pundits believe a section of the voters who might otherwise have voted for the BJP were put off by reports of gross mismanagement of the pandemic by the Centre, particularly between April 17 and 29
With less than 24 hours to go for the assembly election results in West Bengal to be announced, it is perhaps time for even amateurs like myself to stick their neck out and make some forecast based on some statistical patterns. There are two factors that will shape the outcome of this election – the percentage of Muslim and female voters in every constituency, and the rage at the government for mishandling the second wave of the pandemic. The second factor will clearly cost the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) the last phase election, which covered about 70 odd seats.
Studying past voting trends, one gets an idea that BJP has never got complete support of all Hindu voters, despite posing as a party that protects their interests. At best it has managed about 55% of Hindu votes. Applying this basic trend to Nandigram one gets a picture of a possible outcome.
The Nandigram case:
Nandigram has 200,000 voters of which 40,000 are Muslim. If we take out the Muslim voters, which one expects wouldn’t go to BJP, then the fight will be between TMC (Trinamool Congress) for about 150,000 votes, as the Left would garner about 10,000 to 15,000. If BJP has 55% of the non-Muslim votes, then it will be left with 82,500 votes. The Left alliance will win around 15,000 votes of which 5000 will come from BJP’s share, which will dwindle to 77,500. TMC will win around 107,000 (BJP+ Left = 92500).
So, the margin of victory for the TMC candidate, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, the incumbent Chief Minister of the state would be around 15,000 to 20,000 at best. In Nandigram some TMC votes will however move to BJP as Suvendu Adhikari, a former TMC leader in the area, switched loyalties to BJP. Another viewpoint is that the importance given to the newly converted BJP supporters who came from TMC, has annoyed, and sidelined the old BJP loyalists who had built the party facing heavy odds. This section will take revenge by voting for TMC or for the Left Alliance. Therefore, the gains from having Suvendu will be somewhat negated.
Wins by narrow margins will be a trend in almost every constituency and in some cases, it would go down to the wire. This will also be reflected in the final tally. Which ever party manages to form the government will face a stronger opposition.
Which party has the edge where:
BJP will have an edge in constituencies which have very few Muslim voters, likewise TMC will enjoy an advantage in areas where there are large Muslim and women voting population. Women make up half the voter in West Bengal. This time around we have witnessed very large turnout of women voters. They are likely to back TMC which has done quite a bit of work for women, specially girls in the villages. Women also felt the impact of rising cooking gas prices in the kitchen more than men.
The Left Alliance:
I haven’t written much about the Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front alliance, because one didn’t feel much of an impact by this new combo. On the other hand the ISF and Congress were openly fighting against each other. The Left fielded some young, educated, bright faces in this election and some of them might find themselves in the assembly, which is a welcome thing.
The pandemic impact:
Of the total of 294 assembly seats in Bengal about 159 went to the polls between April 17 and 29. This was the period when the Pandemic wreaked havoc in the country including Bengal. On April 15, the total case load in India crossed 200,000. On April 14, West Bengal recorded its highest-ever single-day spike of 5,892 coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 6,30,116. With the healthcare infrastructure coming under severe pressure across the country including Bengal, public opinion clearly turned against the prime minister Mr Narendra Modi who had positioned himself directly against the state chief minister Ms, Banerjee.
The wrath of the voters:
The wrath of the voters will be reflected in the 159 seats in the last few phases of the eight-phase elections spread over 33 days. Pundits feel that BJP wouldn’t get more than 8% to 10% of these seats. Should this scenario be correct, then TMC is coming back albeit with fewer number of seats and the assembly would see a stronger opposition.
( The writer is a former journalist and communication consultant based in Kolkata. Views are personal)