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Mainstream, VOL LX No 18, New Delhi, April 23, 2022

Why is BJP’s popularity declining in Bengal | Tarun Kumar Basu

Friday 22 April 2022, by Tarun Kumar Basu


The loss in the bypolls will send an alarm signals to the saffron camp

The massive erosion in vote share for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in bypolls in both Asansol Loksabha and Ballygunge assembly in West Bengal have kept the saffron camp aggrieved with just around two years left for the next parliamentary election in 2024.

But central leadership of BJP is not disquieted about the decline of vote sharing in all, the elections from Municipal Corporation to the bypolls. Since the assembly polls in 2021, the BJP has failed to win a single election in West Bengal. The saffron camp is now competing with the CPM to retain the second position. A large section of BJP workers expressed their resentment towards BJP’s newly formed state committee for allegedly favouring it’s loyalists and ignoring others who have been in the party for long. After the appointment of Sukanta Majumdar as the new state president, an organisational change was required as the party was witnessing a large number of switchovers to the ruling TMC. BJP’s national president J P Nadda gave responsibility to 10 MLAs and six MPs to strengthen the party across the state.

Why central BJP leaders are not serious about West Bengal, especially after a series of defeats in the elections from assembly to civic polls. In the recently concluded civic polls in Kolkata ,in 144 wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), the BJP’s vote share was 9.2 per cent. BJP’s central leaders had seen a dream in 2019 when the party secured unexpected 40 percent vote share which was just 3 percent less than that of the Trinamool Congress party and started daydreaming that BJP will form the Government in West Bengal in 2021.

In the Ballygunge assembly seat BJP candidate managed to finish third by securing 12.8 percent vote, but in 2021 assembly election, BJP candidate secured 20.50 percent votes. The CPIM candidate finished second and make her party cheered up with 30.1 percent vote from just 5.51 percent vote in 2021 assembly elections. In Asansol seat,
Satrughan Sinha of TMC made a landslide victory with a vote share of 56 percent from 35.19 percent in last parliamentary election in 2019 where BJP’s vote share declined to 30 percent from 51.16 percent.

Why the erosion of vote share is a matter of concern for Bengal BJP as well as central leaders. Defeated BJP candidate of Asansol, Agnimitra Paul accepted that declining in vote share is a matter of anxiousness. Saumitra Khan, BJP’s Lok Sabha member from Bishnupur in Bankura district, made his comment that this disaster is not unexpected because the immature approach of saffron leadership of West Bengal is the main reason. The erosion in bypolls is sending an alarming signal in the saffron camp. The bypolls election concluded in the backdrop of so many issues such as Hanskhali rape to Bogtui massacre, but nothing was worked in favour of BJP as there was no powerful campaigning, but also in terms of party’s strategy and the way it ran its entire campaign crashed significantly. Fanatical patriotism, arrogance were characterized it’s campaign strategy.

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) aggressively promoted hard-core nationalism and its vision of ‘Akhand Bharat’ and ’Ram Rajya’ model in entire country as its major political goals, Mohan Bhagwat, chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, (RSS) recently affirmed that "Akhand Bharat is going to be a reality within a short period". He also mentioned his faith in what Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo said about India. The country is on the path of materializing it and those who will come in between will be wiped out, he opined.

Hindutva’ agenda by using BJP’s IT cell, party cadres on the ground and the RSS, made elections in Bengal highly polarised and communal since last five years. West Bengal is a lesson for the BJP central leadership to stop being overconfident and contemptuous. It is now precisely clear to the average voter on the ground that while the BJP was trying to push for polarization on the lines of Hindutva, then the Trinamool Congress that had effectively used the Bengali identity and the culture of Bengal to unite the entire people.

 "The Left is determined to take on the challenge of ’Hindutva communalism’ of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and his party has requested to all secular forces to come together," said Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretay, Sitaram Yechury at the closing ceremony of 23rd CPIM party congress recently. He supposed that the BJP and the RSS are attempting to destroy the nation’s federal structure. This two organizations are trying to impose forcefully the use of Hindi for official correspondence and compulsorily teaching the language in the schools in northeastern states. Yechury appeared very critical of ’soft Hindutva’ line of Congress also and urged all left and secular parties to come together to fight against RSS and BJP.

West Bengal has very prominent underlined the limits of Hindutva politics. The result of the West Bengal assembly election including by-polls and municipal elections caused heartache to Modi and Shah but made Mohan Bhagwat happier as he said Modi and BJP are political entities and their endgame is winning elections to form governments. He further said that, for the RSS, capturing power is not the ultimate goal, it is to make India a Hindu society. The people of West Bengal are much aware of divisive policies of BJP and RSS. Mamata Banerjee reciting the Chandi Path, Arvind Kejriwal was heard reciting the Hanuman Chalisa and Rahul Gandhi was seen visiting temples, these incidents would have certainly gladdened Mohan Bhagwat’s heart as their target is to raise Hindu consciousness and make every Hindu realise that they are a proud Hindu.

The West Bengal election is a warning signal for Modi and the BJP. The BJP from the beginning was paralyzed by its own politics. It does not believe in wooing Muslim voters, it does not go to them asking for their votes for the ideological reasons. In Bengal, Muslims command 27% votes. In this calculus, that means the BJP can win if it succeeds in polarising more than 50% of the rest of the population. 

The Bengal BJP has many cracks and subgroups. Fissures in the West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party got wider when Union minister of state and leader of Dalit Matua community, Shantanu Thakur became upset for new state committee where there was no position of senior leaders like Sayantan Basu and Joyprakash Majumder. Number of dissidents are increasing beside shifting to TMC are also the concern for BJP and RSS who are clandestinely working together to disturb communal harmony and make the state and country a "Hindu Rasthra"

(Author: Tarun Kumar Basu is a free-lance journalist)

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