Trinamool braces for huge challenge from BJP in next Assembly polls
The BJP’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections and Assembly bypolls translates to leads in 128 Assembly segments and 43.5% of the 294-seat state legislature of West Bengal which is a now a major cause of worry for the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabah seats and four assembly seats.
While the BJP made massive inroads in Bengal, the TMC led in 158 Assembly segments, the Congress in only eight and the Left failed to take a lead in a single assembly segment. Of the 40 seats the Left contested, 39 candidates forfeited their deposits. Congress candidates lost deposits in 37 seats.
It takes 147 legislators to form a government in Bengal and by current statistics the BJP is within striking distance if Assembly elections were held now. So far, the BJP’s best show in the Bengal Assembly was in 2016 when it won three seats. On Thursday, however, the saffron party won four more in assembly by-polls.
Given the BJP’s growing clout, the party’s Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh, who defeated TMC heavyweight Manas Bhuniya from Midnapore Lok Sabha, said on Friday that state elections due in 2021, could well be held before schedule.
The Assembly bypolls held simultaneously reflected the same trend. While BJP candidates got 40.5% of the votes, those won by TMC candidates and an independent supported by the TMC (in Darjeeling) secured 40.22%.
“BJP has swept the northern and southwestern parts of the state and also surged ahead of the TMC in 128 Assembly segments. There is no doubt that TMC will face great challenge in the next Assembly elections, irrespective of when it’s held,” said Tanwir Arshed, assistant professor of political science at Presidency University.
TMC has put up a brave face and insists that the Assembly elections will be different.
“We have lost to the money power of the BJP and the combination of the BJP and the Left. The Assembly elections will be a different ball game,” said panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who contested unsuccessfully from the Bankura Lok Sabha constituency.
“This picture clearly indicates a straight contest between the TMC and the BJP. No third entity will have any opportunity for playing spoilsport by dividing anti-TMC votes,” said psephologist Biswanath Chakraborty, a professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University.
“It seems like days are numbered for the Mamata Banerjee government. She will find it difficult to retain a good number of party MLAs who are already flirting with BJP,” Chakraborty added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier claimed during electoral campaign in Bengal that as many as 40 TMC MLAs are in touch with him. The BJP candidate who won the Barrackpore seat put the number at 60.
State Congress heavyweight Adhir Chowdhury, who won his fifth straight term in the Lok Sabha, too, said that Bengal is set to see bipolar elections for the time being.
“We (Left and Congress) are out of the game for now. We don’t have much to do. Anti-TMC votes are consolidating in favour of BJP and anti-BJP votes are going to TMC,” Chowdhury said.
Political analysts are discerning a similarity between the Lok Sabha polls in 2019 and 2009 that marked the beginning of the end of the three-decade-long Left Front regime.
In 2009, the TMC-Congress alliance (including a small Left party) bagged 26 Lok Sabha seats, reducing the Left Front tally to 15. The BJP won Darjeeling with support of local Gorkha outfits.
In 2009, the Assembly-segment wise analysis revealed the TMC-Congress alliance was leading in 190 seats. Two years later, the TMC-Congress alliance swept the Assembly elections by bagging 226 of the 294 seats.