Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Contest Of Fine Margins Between BJP, Trinamool In Bengal


Of the state’s 42 seats, 22 were won by the Trinamool Congress in 2019 and 18 by the BJP.


West Bengal’s 48 seats make it the third-largest contributor of MPs to the Lok Sabha but what has made the state even more important and interesting in these Lok Sabha elections is the keenly fought contest between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, with neither side willing to give any quarter. 

At NDTV’s special show ‘Battleground’ on Saturday, hosted by Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia, a panel of experts and spokespersons from the BJP and TMC dissected every issue that could play a role in either party getting an upper hand and also shared their thoughts on what drives violence during elections in West Bengal  

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – and a Presidential-style contest between – them dominated the discussion, the two other main points that got a lot of attention were the Sandeshkhali controversy and the welfare push by both parties. 

Everyone, barring the spokespersons of course, seemed to agree that the contest in the state is going to be a neck and neck one and the battle is going to be one of fine margins.

Of the state’s 42 seats, 22 were won by the Trinamool Congress in 2019 and the BJP had made huge inroads and achieved victory in 18. Far from resting on its laurels, the BJP has been relentless in its quest to increase its vote share since then. but the Trinamool Congress has also fought tooth and nail to hold on to its turf.

Pointing to how razor-thin the margins are in the state, Sanjay Kumar, Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) said, “West Bengal is a state where the regional party is very strong but the BJP is putting up a fierce contest. The BJP has defeated the Congress in many states but it seems to be on the back foot when it comes to contesting against regional parties, but Bengal is an exception. I think there is a neck-and-neck fight. This is a battleground in the real sense.”

“There is a contest in every seat. In 2019, the difference in vote share between the parties was just three per cent. The difference in seats was also of only four. If the votes swing by 2 per cent either way… if the BJP’s vote share goes up by 2-3 per cent, the TMC can lose 7-8 seats and if the opposite happens and the BJP loses 4-5 per cent of votes it can be reduced to single digits,” he said.

‘Violence Vitiates Society’

Mr Pugalia pointed out there is a dichotomy in the sense that while Bengal is considered a leader in terms of culture and self-respect it is also one of the most violent states when it comes to political violence. To this, political analyst Swapan Dasgupta said the violence is a legacy of the Left, which ruled Bengal for decades and even the Trinamool was a victim of this when it was fighting the CPM.

“Some of those rough-and-ready methods, unfortunately, have become the new normal in West Bengal and I think this is something that, regardless of which side you prefer, there has to be unanimity on stopping the violence. This vitiates society,” he said.

Pointing to an interesting statistic, Mr Dasgupta said no national party has ever won a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha from West Bengal in 1971. He also said that caste, in addition to  class – which was the CPM’s dominant narrative – has also made an entry in Bengal in 2019. 

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