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Will Bengal results have a bearing on national politics?
If the BJP has lost West Bengal, it is for a totally different set of reasons and not because BJP’s communal politics has ceased to appeal to a section of the masses
The Opposition has a reason to rejoice at Mamata Banerjee’s spectacular victory in West Bengal and that of the DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu.
The stakes were particularly high in West Bengal, both for the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP which had thrust all its might into the battle for the state.
Some politicians and political commentators are gleefully portraying the BJP’s failure to win West Bengal as a loss of face for PM Narendra Modi, who did innumerable rallies in the elections, which stretched over eight long phases. Some in their elation have even predicted that it is the beginning of the end for Modi’s ability to ensure electoral victories for the BJP.
While this sounds good to those who are fed up of Modi & Co’s incessant drum beating, cacophonous election campaigns, divisive rhetoric and crude jibes in election after election even as the country’s basic governance visibly crumbled, this may not be the ground reality.
If the BJP and Modi have lost Bengal, it is for a totally different set of reasons and not because BJP’s communal politics has ceased to appeal to a section of the masses. West Bengal is different from the Hindi heartland states, and reams have been written about the Bengali voters’ psyche over the last two months.
If Mamata Banerjee could retain power in the state, it was thanks to her strong leadership, political dexterity and emotional connect with the masses. She had to use all her skills and resources to counter the BJP.
Even so, she certainly faced one of the toughest electoral battles of her political career so far, and even lost her own seat, Nandigram, to her former protégé Suvendu Adhikari who had switched over to the BJP just ahead of the Assembly elections.
Perhaps a small credit is due to poll strategist Prashant Kishor too for the TMC’s victory.
The TMC may have succeeded in retaining power in West Bengal, but there is no denying that BJP has gained a lot of ground in the state where it once had none. To be able to jump to 80-odd seats from three is not an insignificant achievement. It implies that lakhs of people voted for the BJP.
Of course, there were other factors besides the voters’ inclination towards the saffron party, one of which is of course the massive money power at the disposal of the BJP.
So, the Bengal results should be seen in the limited perspective of Bengal alone and not beyond that.
Secondly, the BJP has succeeded in retaining power in the neighbouring state of Assam despite the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), rising fuel prices and dwindling incomes thanks to Modi government’s disastrous economic policies. This indicates that the BJP and PM Modi have not lost their appeal for a section of the voters and if there is a communal polarisation, it is going to benefit the BJP.
No doubt, the Congress organisation had weakened somewhat in Assam following the death of senior leader and former chief minister Tarun Gogoi. Though the party did put up a brave fight under the guidance of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and other leaders, it could not get the necessary numbers at the end of the day.
Considering the circumstances, the opposition parties may rejoice for now, but if they think that people will vote against the BJP for its disastrous policies in the next polls, it may not quite happen. BJP has at its command enormous resources, the central government machinery and a huge IT Cell. The Opposition parties and leaders will have to give a concerted fight using all their cadre and resources, just like Mamata Banerjee did, to be able to defeat it.
To imagine that pictures of burning pyres and patients gasping for breath or petrol costing Rs 100 a litre or the farmers’ discontent will bring the BJP down is to live in a fools’ paradise.
The failure to win in West Bengal is certainly a setback for Modi and the BJP considering their all-too-visible craving for the state, but it is not likely to have any ramifications in other states or national level politics in the foreseeable future.
Views are personal