Lok Sabha elections 2019: Northern, western parts propel BJP show
Incidentally, these parts have been the focus areas of chief minister Mamata Banerjee ever since she took charge in 2011, and launched several projects aimed at developing infrastructure in these areas.Updated: May 24, 2019 08:18 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made big inroads into West Bengal’s western and northern parts, two relatively under-developed areas of the state.
Incidentally, these parts have been the focus areas of chief minister Mamata Banerjee ever since she took charge in 2011, and launched several projects aimed at developing infrastructure in these areas.
Of the 18 Lok Sabha seats where the BJP was ahead or had already registered victories, as many as 13 were in the west and the north.
“The BJP’s clean sweep of north Bengal and the western region – despite the areas being in the focus of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s schemes for development – shows her populist schemes failed to negate the anti-incumbency created by TMC’s [ruling Trinamool Congress’s] factionalism and corruption, and the highhandedness of local leaders,” said political analyst Sabyasachi Basu Ray Chowdhury, a professor of political science at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University.
The western region — an extension of the Chota Nagpur Plateau — was known as Bengal’s Maoist belt during 1998-2011. It turned into a bastion of the TMC after the ruling party managed to end the ultra-Left insurgency.
The BJP’s leads in north Bengal include both seats in Muslim-majority Malda district (Malda Uttar and Malda Dakshin) and the Raiganj seat in Muslim-majority North Dinajpur district.
“The BJP successfully managed to polarise the Hindus,” said political analyst Amal Mukhopadhyay, a former principal of Presidency College.
In north Bengal’s tea garden belt – spread over the constituencies of Alipurduars, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri – people backed the BJP. Political analysts said growing grievances over the state government’s alleged inaction in helping the ailing gardens have cost the state’s ruling party.
TURNCOATS IN FRAY
While the BJP’s campaign strategy clearly struck a chord in Bengal, its decision to field candidates who defected to the party in the run-up to the elections yielded mixed results. Three of eight such candidates were on course for victory on Thursday, while another was locked in a close contest with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) nominee.
Nisith Pramanik, a former secretary of the TMC’s youth wing in Cooch Behar district, appeared set for a victory against ruling party candidate Paresh Chandra Adhikary in the Cooch Behar constituency.
In Barrackpore, Arjun Singh, who switched over from the TMC in mid-March and is seen as a “bahubali (strongman)”, was ahead in a nail-biter against sitting parliamentarian from the seat, Dinesh Trivedi.
Singh also managed to snatch victory for his son Pawan, who contested against the TMC’s candidate, Madan Mitra, in the Bhatpara assembly bypoll that was held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections.
Saumitra Khan, who won Bishnupur in Bankura district on a TMC ticket in 2014 and joined the BJP on March 12, wasn’t allowed to enter the constituency by the Kolkata high court because he faced a criminal case in the district. He too was ahead in the race.
A former leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), Khagen Murmu, made the best of the BJP surge in the Malda North seat. The three-time MLA from the region’s Habibpur assembly seat, too, joined the BJP on March 12.
“Mukul Roy, who left TMC and now decides BJP’s election strategy, will surely enjoy more importance... However, the turncoats benefited from discontent among TMC supporters over infighting, partisan leadership and violence in the panchayat polls,” said political commentator Suvashis Maitra.
First Published: May 24, 2019 04:01 IST