View: Who holds key to West Bengal?

The enormous sport that eventually began yesterday in West Bengal is unlikely to end with the results on May 2. Whatever may be the outcome, the tremblings of this activity are likely to be felt across the Bay of Bengal coastline for the next five years.India’s eastern seaboard primarily withstood the Modi juggernaut in 2014. The state-level parties in West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu managed to keep the BJP at bay for another five years. However, during the course of its 2019 elections, the BJP infringement Bengal and Odisha as the main opposition party, did serious inroads in Telangana, and waited to emerge as a serious alternative in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. For BJP then, this election is not merely limited to a government, but are built on the advantages in recently acquired territories.How did the BJP in 2019 come close to usurping the position of the Trinamool Congress( TMC) in West Bengal? The TMC’s attempt to dominate the panchayat holding elections in 2018, in which a large number of uncontested sets were earned by the party, allegedly deploying bullying and violent tricks irked a substantial segment of urban Bengal’s electorate. And overnight, political commentators informed us, voters committed to the Left Front’s ideology turned to the saffron party. Chup chap, kamal chhap[ mutely vote for lotus] became the war cry. 8173252 4The data on vote share of various parties and party identification in Lokniti-CSDS inspections indicates that the palpable spate in the favour of the BJP was in making for a long time. The Lokniti-CSDS in all its post-poll investigations invites respondents whether the government has or their family are a traditional ally of any party. This question is a close proxy to what political scientists refer to as party identification. Party identifiers are voters less swayed by short-term circumstances and are the mainstay on which defendants mobilise and add new voters. In any referendum, there is a substantially big segment of the electorate which does not identify with any party, but they do vote for one party or the other. Even party identifiers too switch elects in certain conditions. Therefore, while party identification is highly correlated with vote choice, it is not follow a one-on-one relationship.In a distance of a decade, the proportion of West Bengal electorate that does not identify with any party virtually double-faced — from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2019. Left Front voters didn’t turn saffron overnight; they first became non-committal, and are now ready to be mobilised by alternative solutions, which in Bengal’s case is another ideological extreme — the BJP. The gathering identification with the Left diminished from 32% to 8% during this period. Thus , not only the electoral strength of the Left Front abbreviated far, but likewise the dwindling of its traditional subsistence locate, created a vacuum for an alternative force to develop. The BJP previously had its eyes on the territory, investing huge the resources available to the last 5-6 years to fill in the cavity vacated by the Left Front.How did this happen? Mamata Banerjee’s deep desire to decimate the Left and her attempts to appropriate the Front’s support base( Muslims and good) though fetch her short-term benefits, but also appointed the conditions for the BJP’s rise in Bengal. The TMC government constituted every effort to wean away the Left’s base — through welfare arrangements, co-opting the Left’s machine in rural Bengal and the syndicate operating in the Greater Kolkata region, and using various identity appeals( statu, schism, field and belief) to mobilise voters. This helped the TMC to increase its vote and posterior share in the last two elections. But the crannies that were appearing in the party’s social locate get masked under the thumping success of 2016 and 2018. Mamata Banerjee was caught off guard during the 2019 poll and must be given to threw herculean efforts mid-campaign to stop the BJP juggernaut. It was the last phase in the South Bengal region in which TMC triumphed all nine parliamentary constituencies to hasten past the BJP’s share in the country. In 2021, the TMC faces an uphill task as the charge of rent-seeking among TMC’s local corps in welfare schemes, inefficient management of Amphan cyclone relief money, and charges of brutal coercion has generated a impression of severe anti-incumbency. Furthermore, the defections of prominent governors from the Trinamool to the BJP led to an impression that the BJP has campaign force in its favour.The prime minister and his party are leaving no stone unturned to win over a substantial segment of these non-committed voters. Analysis suggests that the non-identifiers are more likely to be influenced by the campaign, more likely to make a decision on whom to vote close to the polling day and are more likely to side with the perceived win. The key question remains: does the BJP have organisational apparatu to not only increase turnout among non-committal voters, but also assure them of safety and security post-verdict? If yes, then the electoral emblazon of India’s eastern seaboard is likely to change from hereon.Rahul Verma is a Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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