KOLKATA — In the recently concluded polls for the three-tier panchayat system in West Bengal, the biggest bet for the BJP were the districts in North Bengal.
This is because these pockets gifted the BJP with several seats not just in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but also in the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections the BJP won seven out of the eight seats scattered over the eight districts of Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Malda. Not as good as in 2019, but the performance of the saffron camp in these north Bengal districts was quite impressive in the 2021 West Bengal assembly polls, when they had won 26 out of the 56 assembly seats in these eight districts.
However, in the recently concluded rural civic body polls the BJP had not only faced disaster in the tribal dominated pockets in the plains of North Bengal, the saffron camp and its allies also faced similar setbacks in the hill regions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Similar was the case in the other districts and North Bengal namely North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Cooch Behar.
The BJP’s performance had been especially pathetic in the tribal-dominated Alipurduar district, which has the Union minister of state John Barla as its Lok Sabha member. There are several BJP legislators from this district as well. However, in the rural civic body polls, the saffron camp was unable to win a single seat from this district at the zilla parishad level, which is the highest tier in the three-tier panchayat system.
Equally bad was the performance of the saffron camp in South Dinajpur, which is not only the home district of the BJP’s state president in West Bengal Sukanta Majumdar, he is also the Lok Sabha member from the same district. In this district not a single seat at the zilla parishad level has gone in favour of the saffron party.
According to the minister in charge of the north Bengal department Udayan Guha, the success of the BJP in the north Bengal districts in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls started fading since the 2021 assembly elections which has now been completely wiped out in the 2023 rural civic body polls.
“In 2019, they succeeded in getting so many seats by successfully creating communal polarization and instigating the people from the tribal communities in the north Bengal district against each other. But that started fading after the 2021 polls, when the Trinamool Congress won more seats than the BJP from the same district. Now in 2023, the people are fully aware of how they had been bluffed by the BJP, the reflection of which has been in the ballot papers. This anti-BJP wave will continue in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls as well and the saffron forces will be totally wiped out from north Bengal,” Guha said.
However, Dr Sukanta Majumdar feels that the 2023 results have not been a reflection of the true sentiments of the people. “In several seats, many of our candidates were unable to file nominations because of the violence unleashed by the ruling Trinamool Congress. Even after some of them filed nominations, either they were forced to withdraw or their nominations were cancelled. What kind of violence was unleashed on the polling day by the ruling party activists, the entire world is aware of that. But that same thing will not happen in the Lok Sabha polls. Rather many Trinamool Congress voters will vote against the ruling party to teach them a lesson as had happened in the 2019 elections,” Majumdar said. — IANS