Kolkata: Despite the Central leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, descending on West Bengal every second day and hosting huge rallies and roadshows amidst chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Didi-o-Didi’, the lotus failed to bloom in the state.
It is indeed ironical that ‘ab ki bar 200 par (we will cross the 200-seat threshold) – the BJP’s campaign mantra -- holds true of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) this time.
More than anything, the results have shown that the electorate has rebuffed the BJP’s attempt to polarize the elections, which in turn suggests that the party leadership failed find the pulse of Bengal and appreciate its composite ethos. ‘‘And that is the reason, despite leading in 121 assembly constituencies in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, we won less than 100 seats this time," said a BJP functionary.
An off-the-cuff analysis suggests that all the attempts to polarize the polls on communal lines failed. "So, even as Muslim votes rallied in favour of the TMC, the Bengali Hindu rejected the virulent form of communal politics and voted for Mamata," a BJP leader said.
Another important factor was the absence in the BJP of credible Bengali faces which, by default, turned the election into a contest between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Banerjee. The TMC poll strategists, in turn, were able to turn the contest deftly into one between a rank ‘outsider’ and ‘Bengal ki Beti.’
The Centre was also perceived to be trying to be too clever by half with the EC plotting a multiple phase long drawn poll campaign which gave the BJP a distinct advantage: the saffron dispensation was able to build a hype in the initial rounds that voters were gravitating towards the BJP, a perception it had hoped to exploit in the concluding phases.
However, the multiple-phase poll amid the Covid surge worked against the BJP. "Urban voters in the last round voted against us for holding elections in a pandemic; it also turned the spotlight on the Centre's failure to manage the situation," a party leader said.
Though the BJP is still claiming that from what was a negligible presence in West Bengal, they have usurped the political space of both the Left Front and the Congress, analysts said imponderables like unabated price hike of petroleum products, the raging pandemic and the absence of a chief ministerial face led to their doom.
At another level, the personalised attacks on Mamata -- which resonated in the PM’s shrill call of Didi-o-Didi -- and the devious attempts to suggest that she was averse to chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ – which Mamata countered with her rendition of ‘Chandi Path’ and ‘Hindu mantras’ – also worked to BJP’s disadvantage.
Some even said that the launch of TMC health insurance card ‘Swasthya Sathi’, which promised health benefits for up to Rs 5 lakh and treatment at government and private hospitals, ahead of the polls, was a turning point, bringing the fickle fence sitters into the TMC fold.
Apart from the health card, the Chief Minister also promised doorstep ration.
“In the last rounds, the steep rise in Covd-19 cases al also came into play with the ham-handed handling of the pandemic situation becoming a talking point in public transport,’’ believes poll analyst Biswanath Chakraborty.
The ‘Mahila’ vote was a mystifying variable which Mamata was able to harness by building on the persona of a slender woman with one leg in plaster who was being hounded by goons (in Nandigram).
The rudderless Left and Cong voter also plumped for Mamata for lack of an alternative. Malda and Murshidabad, traditional Congress bastions with a sizeable minority population, voted in droves for the TMC.