Big jolt to BJP in Bengal bypolls

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Kolkata: The turf looks uneven as the extra bounce out of the blue is turning out to be an uphill task to handle – yes, the indomitable tag that Prime Minister Narendra Modi sketched for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is running into rough weather.

First, it was the fiasco in Maharashtra followed by the defeat to the Trinamool Congress in the Assembly bypolls in three seats in West Bengal – BJP’s woes seem to have been compounded and the invincibility factor has got a sever jolt.

Rewind to a few months back, when the Modi wave once again saw the party through with an absolute majority in the Parliamentary polls. What looked ominous for the opposition then, has now given the beleaguered rivals of the saffron wing, tremendous impetus.

In Maharashtra, if the miscalculation complemented by complacency did the BJP in, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee has once again proved that she still holds clout and it’s still early days for the saffron flag to flutter in the eastern state.

Kharagpur Sadar, Kaliaganj and Karimpur all have gone the TMC way much to the dismay of state BJP president Dilip Ghosh. Elections to Kharagpur Sadar were necessary after Ghosh made it to the Lok Sabha. Similarly, TMC’s Mohua Moitra vacated the Karimpur assembly seat after triumphing in the Lok Sabha elections. Incidentally, as the Banerjee pointed out, it’s the first time in 21 years of the TMC’s inception that the party emerged victorious in Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar.

Buoyed by the 18 seats it won in the Lok Sabha elections in the state, the state wing of the BJP perhaps didn’t get the writings on the wall right. The aftermath of some juvenile steps and statements has put the party on the backfoot and it is time for some serious introspection.

Though, results of bypolls do not reflect on the larger picture, but it’s been a turnaround for TMC which was sulking after ceding so much of ground to rival BJP.

Kharagpur Sadar, Kaliaganj and Karimpur all have gone the TMC way much to the dismay of state BJP president Dilip Ghosh. Elections to Kharagpur Sadar were necessary after Ghosh made it to the Lok Sabha. Similarly, TMC’s Mohua Moitra vacated the Karimpur assembly seat after triumphing in the Lok Sabha elections. Incidentally, as the Banerjee pointed out, it’s the first time in 21 years of the TMC’s inception that the party emerged victorious in Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar.

Pradip Sarkar of TMC defeated BJP’s Prem Chandra Jha by  20,811 votes in Kharagpur Sadar which was a matter of prestige for both the parties. In Kaliaganj the BJP’s lead of 57,000 votes in the Lok Sabha elections didn’t reap dividends with Tapan Deb Singha of TMC scoring over BJP’s Kamal Chandra Sarkar though by a slender margin of 2,414 votes. In Karimpur, TMC’s Bimalendu Singha Roy beat BJP’s Jay Prakash Majumdar by a margin of 24,119 votes.

“In the Lok Sabha polls, EVMs were manipulated. Still we have overcome (BJP’s) huge leads in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj seats and doubled our lead in Karimpur. In the name of NRC, the BJP has created panic among the people. Workers from Bengal are killed in Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. There are no jobs for youths in Bengal. It is a victory against BJP’s arrogance and desperation to come to power. We have received votes from Bengalis and non-Bengalis as well,” the CM was quoted in the media.

The West Bengal chief minister couldn’t have been happier as she congratulated the voters for giving the TMC such a resounding mandate. “In 21 years since the formation of our party, we never won either Kharagpur Sadar or Kaliaganj seats. I want to thank all the people for this victory. From leaders and workers, all have worked day and night to make this happen. This will only make us humble and work for the people in the days to come,” Banerjee said after the victory.

She also took swipes at the BJP for resorting to ‘manipulations’ for electoral glory and also its nefarious designs to impose National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the state. “In the Lok Sabha polls, EVMs were manipulated. Still we have overcome (BJP’s) huge leads in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj seats and doubled our lead in Karimpur. In the name of NRC, the BJP has created panic among the people. Workers from Bengal are killed in Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh. There are no jobs for youths in Bengal. It is a victory against BJP’s arrogance and desperation to come to power. We have received votes from Bengalis and non-Bengalis as well,” the CM was quoted in the media.

bjp tmc bypolls in west bengal mamata banerjee NRC CAB
A tweet by @MamataOfficial tweet handle after the bypolls results

The setback to the BJP doesn’t really augur well if it has to nurture ambitions of wresting the state from the TMC in the state elections slated for 2021. There is little doubt that the NRC plank hasn’t worked and it has marginalised the minorities (read Muslims) further from the BJP. Similarly, the hullabaloo around the CAB that unabashedly draws a line of demarcation between Muslims and the rest, has taken its toll on the party. The instability in Jammu and Kashmir resulting in the killings of workers from Bengal has also been a bane for BJP.

Much to BJP’s chagrin, it is safe to say that the NRC and CAB gave Banerjee the much-needed ground to woo voters and portray herself as their saviour. The main handicap of the BJP in the state is absence of a face which can impress on the electorates to support the party. Ghosh with his loud mouth and uncontrollable tongue has embarrassed the party more often than not – so has a party veteran like Rahul Sinha who linked Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee’s achievement to his marital life. Though, rural voters devoid of internet facilities may not have been much influenced by such quixotic views, however, the TMC cashed it to the hilt to queer the BJP’s pitch.

What is more alarming is the ‘do-not-care’ arrogance that is becoming a liability for the ruling party at the Centre. The Ayodhya verdict hasn’t gone down well with a section of the Muslims and the liberals among the non-Muslims (doubting the plausibility of the verdict). The superiority complex of the few in the higher echelons of the party and undermining its allies and opponents have been a spoilsport too. As renowned journalist Girish Kuber writes in the Indian Express, “The BJP’s behaviour over the past 5-6 years is the same as that of the Congress of the Eighties and Nineties. The saffron party’s approach in handling both parties, first the Shiv Sena and then the NCP, was like that of the Congress and its methods were not just unwise but politically incorrect too. The BJP didn’t even realise that being dismissive of these outfits has, in fact, resulted in the party blinding itself and offers limited elbow room, necessary in a tightly-strung political atmosphere.”

The debacle if we say so in Bengal bypolls cannot be brushed under the carpet – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana (where it was forced to seek JJP’s help to form the government), Maharashtra and now West Bengal – the message is clear – take voters for granted and it boomerangs.

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