Campaigning for the first phase of Bengal elections ended on Thursday. 30 seats will go for polls on March 27. A plethora of opinion polls have been released and everything points to a close contest.
While ABP-CNX is projecting a hung Assembly, Times Now-C Voter is predicting a Trinamool Congress win and India News-Jan Ki Baat sees a Bharatiya Janata Party victory. According to a ‘poll of polls’ by Crowdwisdom360, TMC may win 127 seats, BJP 149 seats and Left Congress alliance 21 seats.
In the end, few would even remember these numbers, as focus shifts to exit polls after the voting for the eighth and the final phase ends on April 29.
After the bitter experience in Bihar, very few would believe these exit poll numbers and we will have to wait for May 2 for the final result.
The Battle of Bengal has been very intense till now with both the main contenders, the BJP and the TMC, claiming to have the upper hand. The election campaign has been acrimonious with both parties hurling abuse at each other.
The battle has also been violent with attacks and bombs hurled at each other. It is only going to get uglier from here.
Can the BJP unfurl the saffron flag on the soil of Bengal? Will ‘2 May Didi Gayi’ slogan prove to be correct? Or will ‘Bengal’s own daughter’ stop the BJP juggernaut in the state humbling the Modi-Shah jodi?
That’s the million-dollar question which nobody has an answer to. Yet.
In the last elections in 2016, the BJP had won only 3 seats. Now even agencies which predict a TMC victory, are giving 100 or more seats to the BJP. The state has been ‘saffronised’ and the party has managed to establish strong roots catching the imagination of the people of Bengal and relegating the Left Front to the sidelines.
Even if we assume for a moment that the BJP loses this election, there will be a big silver lining for the party in the loss. It will draw huge comfort from the following points:
1. This election will cement BJP’s position as the principal opposition to Mamata Banerjee’s TMC. It will prove that 2019 general election performance was not a fluke. It will also prove wrong the theory that the BJP’s performance weakens in state elections compared to general elections.
2. The Bengal elections are also being seen as a referendum on CAA and NRC. The expected jump in seats and vote share will prove that the party has received support for the contentious bills and illegal migration is a big issue in the state.
3. Whatever be the outcome, the party has been successful in implementing the Hindi belt/cow belt template of election campaign in Bengal, too. It has brought to the fore the exploitation of the subaltern Hindu castes by the Bhadralok and given a caste twist to the class politics of Bengal.
4. Even if the BJP loses the Assembly elections, it will be in a better position for the 2024 parliamentary polls. Anti-incumbency in the state will not impact its fortunes. The state tally will help the party to compensate for any losses in the Hindi belt.
Recently, psephologist Yashwant Deshmukh tweeted: ‘Regardless of Vidhan Sabha results in 2021, the BJP is likely to sweep West Bengal in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. We will witness another split vote, just like in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Bengal is not resisting. It is becoming the ground zero for the next big saffron wave.”
5. The BJP has been able to sell its cultural nationalism narrative in Bengal and the naysayers who doubted if it will not work in the cultural capital of the country, Kolkata, will be proved wrong.
6. Hindutva has now established itself as an ideological factor in Bengal’s politics, leading Mamata to tone down her association with Muslims and recite ‘Chandi paath’ as Chanakya writes in a Hindustan Times article.
The Jai Sri Ram slogan has clicked with the rural audience. The Hindu-Muslim divide will remain a defining feature of Bengal’s politics.
Bengal will give confidence to the BJP that its Hindutva brand of politics will work across regions, culture, language and demographics, and help it breach the Southern India fortress where it has failed to make inroads.
Speaking with The Telegraph, TMC’s prinicipal poll strategist Prashant Kishor said, "Make no mistake, no matter what happens, the BJP has arrived in Bengal… all I am arguing is that they (BJP) are a very strong party even if they lose, which they will."
To sum up, win or lose, the BJP has arrived in the state and has been successful in changing the political discourse of the state of Bengal forever.