Asol Poribortan Asbe - The Bengal Story

 Mamata Banerjee will be the Chief Minister of West Bengal again — for a historic third time — after defeating the BJP in a one-sided election. The BJP made the election Mamta Vs Modi; she defeated PM, but she is the only woman CM in the Country. 

On 18 April, Shah said the BJP would win at least 122 of the 180 seats where elections had been held in the first five phases.

“Mamata Banerjee’s defeat is inevitable. She has been chief minister for ten years. So, we cannot offer her an ordinary farewell. It must be a grand affair, and you can ensure that by giving the BJP more than 200 seats,” Shah added.  

Cut to 2 May, and Bengal appears to have thrown up a completely different outcome from what the BJP seemed so sure about, and TMC has won.

To get the drift of Banerjee's audacious win, consider what was at stake. The Election Commission (EC) ordered a (never-ending) eight-phase election designed to help the BJP. The Union Minister Amit Shah was the chief election strategist for the BJP. Two five-star hotels were requisitioned, and the entire IT cell under Amit Malviya moved base to Kolkata.

 According to reports, Shah addressed over 50 public meetings, rallies and roadshows, while PM conducted over 20 physical and virtual rallies. Many of the party and central government's most high-profile members — Union Minister Smiriti Irani, Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal and Dharmendra Pradhan, and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityananth and Chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chauhan— joined in as well. BJP president J.P Nadda is believed to have addressed more than 40 public meetings.

The BJP office was opened for Trinamool’s defector. Shah personally welcomed more than 40 defectors. The BJP made tones of lavish supply of funds available to Kailash Vijayvargiya, Amit Shah’s trusted Lieutenant in the election.

Banerjee took on the BJP's polarisation full-on, reciting the "Chandi Path" on stage with aplomb and visiting temples in every constituency after campaigning.

 The BJP, which won 18 of 42 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, ran with its usual campaign template. This made the Dalits in Bengal feel that they had been discriminated against in welfare measures by leaders like Banerjee in favour of Muslims, who makeup 27 per cent of Bengal's population and have a majority presence in the three districts of Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur. The BJP's war cry was to call Banerjee "Begum", a shrill dog whistle, and say that they would remove the "Muslim veto" in Bengal politics.

 With his new flowing beard look, Modi seemed to be a visual nod to Bengal’s favourite son, the revered Rabindra Nath Tagore.BJP also brought actor Mithun Chakraborty, who had earlier worked with TMC and CPM.

Mamta Banerjee was pictured by her election advisor Prashant Kishor as the little didi or “Bengal ki Beti” against the might of outsiders, Which has eventually worked in favour of TMC.

Now, where exactly did the Mammoth of National politics in India slip up? Nobody who watched the Bengal elections thought that BJP would lose, let alone by such a significant margin. The people living outside of West Bengal thought that people were eager to get rid of Mamata and would prefer anyone over her.

 The one thing leaders of the BJP missed was that the people of West Bengal are obsessed over identity. At the same time, the BJP leaders were busy motivating Hindu ideology and giving speeches in Hindi. Mamata’s strategy was protecting Bengal’s identity from the ‘Goondas from Gujarat’.

 Mamata did all her speeches in Bangla and showed herself as a strong woman/Bengali who stood against the joint forces of outsiders. Modi and Shah were aggressive while criticising every aspect of Mamata’s governance, but Mamata consolidated at every turn.

 The final blow was the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in the whole country and India’s exposed ill-equipped health infrastructure. The people of West Bengal have access to the Internet and saw the state of health infrastructure of BJP-ruled states in North India. This opened the eyes of many people as they realised that they don’t live in those states.

The poor condition of UP and seeing the number of dead bodies pile up was a significant turning point in BJP’s campaign to win Bengal.

 What BJP failed to prepare for was the importance of women in Bengal politics. In West Bengal, people don’t get impressed with men flexing their muscle, and women voters vote for other women. Here, Mamata’s government promised them jobs and money.

 You can criticise the failure in increasing the industrial prowess of West Bengal and how she failed to maintain Bengal’s lead in growth. But these factors don’t matter to the rural household who want better connectivity with the urban areas and incentives for education. The TMC government has proved itself worthy of the rural household’s vote as they have built roads and provided them with land and incentives for agriculture while also promoting education.

 In the end, it came down to the leader of campaigning. BJP was still dependant on the orating quality of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and failed to put forward a good face for the CM candidate. This made a significant difference as Mamata Banerjee was established as a natural leader and led the campaign herself. This showed the people that if they voted for TMC, there is a guarantee of a well-established leader and a leader who has proven herself a protector of Bangla culture.

 It is clear that there will be a TMC government for the next five years, and the khela has begun.


- रचित and Mayank Mishra 



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