By Saibal Gupta
Kolkata, May 7 (IANS): The defeat in Bengal Assembly polls is surely going to be a big lesson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In a rare electoral setback for the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine, the duo failed to crack the sentiments of the people of West Bengal, resulting in a convincing loss for the saffron brigade.
While several reasons might come out in the party's internal introspection meetings, IANS lists some factors that helped Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cruise to a landslide victory over the saffron brigade, which used all its resources in the run-up to the high-octane Assembly polls to wrest power from the Trinamool Congress in the state.
Double-engine Sarkar and the Outsider tag
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held 23 election rallies in 14 days in Bengal, while Union Home Minister Amit Shah held 79 rallies, roadshows and town halls in 20 days in the run-up to the polls. The ruling party at the Centre deployed over 52 Union ministers, MPs, CMs and Cabinet ministers of BJP-ruled states to campaign in Bengal. Around 15 to 17 senior BJP and RSS leaders were stationed in Bengal for more than three months.
The BJP leadership stressed on the need for a synchronised government both at the state and the Centre, making it obvious that the state would get better benefits from the BJP ruled Central government if Bengal has a similar government in the state as well. However, this gave Mamata Banerjee a point to prove her allegation that the Centre was adopting a step-motherly attitude towards Bengal.
It also gave Banerjee the opportunity to advocate her ‘outsider' theory, pushing her Bengali image to make a dent in the hearts of the middle and lower middle-class Bengali population. Her campaign ‘Bangla Nijer Meyeki Chai' (Bengal wants her own daughter) was not only a successful effort to push out the ‘outsider', it was also a delicate attempt to showcase her own image that worked wonders.
Mamata's women-centric schemes
This was Trinamool's best ever performance in the last three Assembly elections, with the party securing 213 of the 292 seats in the state. Elections are due in two seats as the candidates died after testing positive for Covid-19. The mandate was overwhelmingly against the saffron party with an incumbent government of 10 years securing 47.95 per cent votes in its third term.
What worked wonders for Banerjee is that the women voters came out in larger numbers in support of the Trinamool, primarily because of a number of women-centric schemes launched by the ruling party.
One of the most talked-about schemes started by Banerjee is the Kanyashree scheme launched in 2013, which provides cash handouts to girls between 13 and 18 years of age, provided they remain unmarried and in school.
Another scheme, Rupashree, launched in 2018, provides a one-time financial grant of Rs 25,000 to the economically stressed families at the time of their adult daughters' wedding.
Swasthya Sathi, the health insurance scheme, offers a family health card issued in the name of the household matriarch, giving authority to the women members of the family.
The Muslim voters
In the recent Assembly elections, the Trinamool received unprecedented backing of the Muslim voters. The party won all the seats which had minority influence and literally finished the Left and the Congress. In the Congress bastions of Murshidabad and Malda, Trinamool won 18 of 20 and eight of 12 seats, respectively. In South 24 Parganas, a district where many seats have substantial Muslim majority, Trinamool won 30 of 31 seats. In all these places, the BJP failed to strike a chord with the Muslim voters.
According to the 2011 Census, Muslims comprised 27 per cent of the state's population. The Muslim votes transferred to the Trinamool primarily out of the fear that if the BJP came to power, it would implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Tribal and SC voters
There are two areas where the Trinamool made substantial inroads into the tribal and SC votes – Junglemahal and North Bengal.
In the last Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the BJP was ahead in all the 40 Assembly segments in the Junglemahal area comprising four districts -- Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur and Jhargam. But this time the Trinamool bagged 24 seats in the area against the BJP's 16, which was a major setback for the saffron camp.
As far as North Bengal is concerned, the BJP managed to get win 30 out of the 54 seats while the Trinamool bagged the remaining 24 seats. Though the saffron brigade held back its ground in the four districts of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, getting 21 out of the total 26 seats, in the rest of the three districts, namely North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda, it managed to win only 9 out the 28 seats.
Positive Mamata vs Negative Mamata
Banerjee's battle in the 2021 elections was more with herself and her own party than with the BJP. She not only had to fight with the mighty BJP, but also had to do her shadow fighting with the incumbency factor that crept into the roots of the party and the government. When BJP targeted the negative factors of the party and the Chief Minister's family, Banerjee tried to rectify the mistakes and reached out to the people of the state.
When the Modi-Shah team continuously tried to hit back at ‘tolabaji' (extortion), cut-money, loot by the Trinamool leaders during Amphan, high-handedness of the Trinamool leaders and the ‘Bhaipo' (Abhishek Banerjee) controversy, Banerjee not only tried to rectify the mistakes by handing the relief money to the Amphan victims, but also silently launched her ‘Duare Sarkar' (government at your doorstep) and ‘Parai Parai Samadhan' (solution of problems at your own neighbourhood) campaigns. The two schemes launched by the state government created a positive impression which was eventually reflected in the elections.