BJP Pays Price for Its Strategic Blunder in West Bengal

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Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi

Moral of the story is that elections cannot be won just on the basis of noises created on TV channels

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

WHATEVER may be the poll outcome in the other three states and a Union Territory the humiliating defeat suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal has put up a big question mark over the very strategy adopted by it in the state.

Though there is little scope in the BJP for its leaders to openly voice their concern, resentment has started brewing up against the top leadership over the manner in which the whole election exercise was carried out and that too at the height of the pandemic. The BJP bigwigs have not learnt any lesson from the repeated defeats in the Assembly elections ever since the Delhi poll of 2015. It is an established fact beyond doubt that in 70 years ever since the first election was held in India, no party or alliance with over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha has lost so many Assembly polls as the Bharatiya Janata Party.

True, it won Uttar Pradesh in March 2017, but that was largely because of the quarrel which started between chief minister Akhilesh Singh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav just on the eve of the election. Till November 2016, Akhilesh was comfortably placed and the BJP was busy answering questions raised over the November 8 demonetisation. The media, especially the television channels, largely overlooked this aspect.

The other big state which the saffron party won in recent years is Bihar where the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance managed to win by a wafer-thin majority in November last year. This had happened when the NDA had all the advantages as the main opposition leader, Lalu Prasad of RJD, was in jail. Yet his 31-year old son and a political green-horn, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, almost snatched victory from the NDA. Anyway, the RJD emerged as the single largest party winning 75 seats against BJP’s 74 and its alliance partner, the Janata Dal-United of Nitish Kumar just 43.

In Assam, if the BJP-led alliance is winning it is not just because of the Badruddin Ajmal factor, as the TV channels would like the people to believe. It was more because the Congress-led Mahajot had no leader of the stature of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who died of coronavirus on November 23. In contrast the BJP had deputy chief minister Himant Biswa Sarma, who is most likely to become the chief minister.

Since the BJP had made the election personality oriented it was bound to lose in the states where it has no such figure.

This had happened in Delhi where there was no match to the personality of Arvind Kejriwal. Similar is the case with Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. The likes of former Chief Economic Advisor, Ashok Lahiri, or columnist Swapan Dasgupta, can be no match to Didi. The state-level figures like Dilip Ghosh, Mukul Roy, Arjun Singh, Suvendhu Adhikari, Rahul Sinha, Babul Supriyo, etc. are just paper tigers.

The BJP strategy of launching election campaign as early as November 4 last year with the arrival of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Kolkata was a monumental blunder. It alerted the Trinamool Congress much earlier and gave it enough time to get rid of black sheep and re-group itself. The saffron party, which was organisationally not very strong, thought that it would win the election on the basis of turn-coats and a few religious slogans to polarise the society. Had the BJP launched its campaign in February it would have taken the Trinamool Congress by surprise.

Initially, it appeared that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Bangladesh would yield big dividends. But the early analysis of the result suggests that the whole exercise in fact backfired and the party could never realise it.

The prolonging of election to eight phases and that too at the height of coronavirus boomeranged and the party paid a heavy price for it.

The moral of the West Bengal verdict is that elections cannot be won just on the basis of noises created on the television channels and by pressing into service party leaders and workers from all over the country. The grass-roots reality will have to be accepted. The silent majority speaks through ballots — or EVMs.

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