NEW DELHI: BJP registered a significant success in retaining office in Assam, demonstrating that its win in the state with a sizeable population of Muslims was not a one-off, bagged a couple of seats in Tamil Nadu, consolidated its steadily increasing vote share in Kerala and ended on the winning side in Puducherry. Yet, the trophy that it seemed to covet the most—a win in Bengal—eluded it.
BJP, which managed just 10% votes and three seats five years ago in Bengal, was hopeful of pulling off a repeat of the upset it achieved in Tripura. The party’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls, when it won 18 of the 42 seats, had whetted its appetite and led it to believe that a victory over Mamata Banerjee was a realistic objective.
With a campaign which sought to tap into resentment over Banerjee’s appeasement, and corruption and excesses by local Trinamool functionaries, besides seeking to target specific caste groups and women, BJP thought it was on the right track. The response to PM Narendra Modi from the throngs he drew only boosted the confidence. Only that the outcome on Sunday panned out differently.
BJP functionaries are looking at the possibility whether outreach to certain sections did not go as planned even as solid turnout of Trinamool voters, including Muslims, helped Banerjee’s cause. It is also being felt that the campaign was let down by weak organisation.
A BJP source also said that the 18 Lok Sabha seats the party won had to be seen in the context of Modi being given a second term. The motivation levels in the state polls were not so high, and it was also the case that Banerjee had been taken by surprise in 2019 and this was not so in the assembly polls.
The results in Assam and West Bengal are important in terms of the party’s hunt for new areas of influence and reduce its dependence on north and west India to deliver parliamentary majorities. While Assam will help BJP grow in the northeast, the setback in West Bengal is more serious.
The pressure on BJP to win the forthcoming state polls in Uttar Pradesh will grow with elections due next year. The hill state of Uttarakhand is also due for polls and the party is not in good shape there. The UP polls will be important in setting the tone, as it has been the backbone of BJP’s parliamentary majorities in 2014 and 2019.
Bengal has been an adverse political and ideological battleground and it would have projected a win as a major triumph for its Hindutva and development model.
However, winning Assam is the solace the party needed to continue its expansion in the eastern region, as it was pitted against a strong Congress-AIUDF alliance with possibility of anti-incumbency feelings.