Trinamool wins all 3 seats in Bengal bypolls, BJP jolted

Updated on Nov 29, 2019 04:00 AM IST
The by-elections were the first held in Bengal since the BJP made massive inroads into the state by winning 18 Lok Sabha seats out of 42 in the summer general elections.
TMC supporters celebrate in Nadia on Thursday.(PTI)
TMC supporters celebrate in Nadia on Thursday.(PTI)
Hindustan Times, Kolkata | By

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in all three assembly seats to which by-elections took place on November 25, claiming that the outcome was a vote against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) championed by the BJP-led government at the Centre.

“This is a victory of people. This is a victory of development. Politics of arrogance will not work. People have rejected the BJP,” TMC leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was quoted as saying by ANI. “People have voted against BJP because the party they voted for at the national level is asking them to prove that they are Indian citizens.”

TMC and BJP have often squared off against each other on the NRC, an exercise that Union home minister Amit Shah recently vowed would be replicated across India, expanding an exercise that was carried out in Assam and led to the identification of 1.9 million people who now face the risk of being labelled illegal immigrants.

The by-elections were the first held in Bengal since the BJP made massive inroads into the state by winning 18 Lok Sabha seats out of 42 in the summer general elections.

TMC won all three assembly segments — Kaliagunj in North Dinajpur district, Karimpur in Nadia district and Kharagpur Sadar in West Midnapore district.

Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar are part of Lok Sabha seats that BJP won in the last polls. TMC won the Kharagpur Sadar seat by 20,853 votes and Karimpur by 23910 votes. The contest was close at Kaliaganj where the BJP lost by 2,414 votes.

While Kharagpur Sadar is a cosmopolitan semi-industrial township with more than 65% non-Bengali citizens, the other two are located in districts lying along the India-Bangladesh border and comprise a sizeable number of Muslims as well as Hindu refugees who crossed over from Bangladesh after the 1971 war.

This is the first time TMC won in Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar. Kaliaganj was traditionally a Congress bastion, where polls were held because the party’s legislator died. Kharagpur Sadar was held by BJP’s state president Dilip Ghosh, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in the last election. Ghosh wrested the seat from Congress stalwart Gyan Singh Sohanpal in 2016.

BJP leaders didn’t accept that the NRC had been responsible for its reverses.“If NRC failed us, how will you explain our defeat in Kharagpur Sadar where it was not even an issue,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

“TMC misused state machinery in every possible manner to defeat us and the chief minister virtually went door-to-door to mislead people on the NRC issue. Many voters fell for it. Rest assured we will win the 2021 assembly polls with more than two-third majority, ” said BJP state president Ghosh in New Delhi.

The TMC tweeted that the BJP’s days were numbered in Bengal. “This is the first time we are winning in Kharagpur and Kaliaganj. Minorities, Adivasis, Rajbanshi—everyone has voted for us. Courtesy is the culture of Bengal,” it said.

In TMC’s victory, many observers saw the hand of the party’s election strategist Prashant Kishor, who emphasised a door-to-door campaign and the need to highlight local issues.

“NRC has dealt a huge blow to the BJP while Mamata Banerjee’s image was rebuilt by Kishor’s team,” said Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University.

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