Three out of three: How BJP helped Mamata stage a triumphant recovery in Bengal

These setbacks are a slap in the face for the saffron party, which after unprecedented gains in the Lok Sabha elections in the state had expected the bypolls to cement their rise.  

Published: 28th November 2019 05:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2019 06:00 PM   |  A+A-

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. | (Photo | PTI)

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. | (Photo | PTI)

Online Desk

It was Didi's day out in Bengal.

Not only did the Trinamool retain the Karimpur seat, a traditional party bastion, but they also surprisingly bagged the Kaliaganj and Kharagpur Sadar constituencies as well.

In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won seven out of eight seats from North Bengal and gained a significant chunk of the votes from Kaliaganj and Kharagpur.

In fact, Union minister Deboshree Chowdhury in her Lok Sabha win from the Raiganj seat had secured a lead of over 56,000 votes in Kaliaganj. The Kharagpur seat, meanwhile, had been vacated by state BJP president Dilip Ghosh after his election as an MP from Medinipur.

These setbacks are a slap in the face for the saffron party, which after unprecedented gains in the Lok Sabha elections in the state had expected the bypolls to cement their rise.  

But the results suggest that many factors including the fear of a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) have trumped the Hindutva sentiments which the saffron party was banking on. It has underlined that the exclusion of a huge number of Hindus in the NRC list in Assam has become a concern for the Hindus in Bengal as well.

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The Chief Minister, a strong critic of the NRC, not only repeatedly locked horns with the Centre to prevent it being applied in Bengal. But with the support of the Congress and the Left parties, she also passed a resolution against the NRC on September 6. This move seems to have gone down very well with the Hindu and Muslim Bengali speaking people in the state. 

Modi's Hindu unity cry also seems to have failed to win the hearts of Bengalis despite the bypolls having taken place immediately after the Supreme Court's historic Ayodhya verdict that paved the way for the construction of a Ram Temple.

Then there was the not-so-little matter of the hurt Bengali pride. 

In her first reaction to the results, Mamata said, "BJP is getting paid back for its arrogance and for insulting the people of Bengal." 

Be it through erstwhile leaders or recent Nobel laureates, the Bengali speaking population in the state take immense pride in their identity, which they feel has been insulted by the saffron camp time and again. 

In October, when Bengal was celebrating economist Abhijit Banerjee's Nobel, Union Minister Piyush Goyal single-handedly managed to vex the entire state by dismissing him as 'Left-leaning'. Goyal added that the people of the country by not buying into Congress' NYAY promise had 'totally rejected' Banerjee’s thinking.

Later, Bengal BJP leader and national secretary Rahul Sinha made matters worse by saying that people with foreigners as second wives get Nobel prizes. 

Although Dilip Ghosh tried to limit the damage by saying that Banerjee can help in alleviating the country's economic woes, it proved to be a case of too little too late. 

"We are trying to assess the situation. A lot of things have gone wrong. We hoped the Ayodhya verdict would help us win seats, but it looks like it didn't. We had warned our workers to not scare the Muslim voters with NRC. But in my opinion, the voters were not happy with the comments made by the top brass over the course of time. We will come back stronger in 2021. There is still almost two years left," said a BJP leader who didn't want to be named.

The BJP was earlier "punished" in the Lok Sabha elections after it allegedly vandalised a 200-year-old Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar bust in North Kolkata following a clash with the TMC ahead of the seventh phase of elections. 

Vidyasagar, a revolutionary, is an important part of Bengal's socio-political history. Mamata aggressively harped on the issue and termed the incident an attack on Bengali culture and made it the focal point of her pro-Bengal rhetoric.

Her counter sub-nationalism did work in her party's favour as the BJP lost all the nine seats that went to the polls in that phase.

The latest round of results stresses once again that although Mamata's brand of parochial politics didn't go down well with the Bengalis in the state initially, the BJP's utter disregard for the community’s feelings is only making her stronger.


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