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Battle for Bengal: Decoding Suvendu Adhikari's Newfound Love for Some Left and Congress Leaders

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari

BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari

Ever since the former TMC leader joined the BJP in December, he has strategically refrained from offending a majority of Left Front and Congress leaders and this hasn't gone unnoticed among political experts, who feel that he is trying hard to retain the nearly 33 per cent Left and Congress vote share that shifted towards the saffron party from 2016 to 2019.

Kolkata: It was a public rally and the place was Chandannagar in Bengal’s Hooghly district when Trinamool Congress turncoat Suvendu Adhikari on January 20 sprung a surprise with heaps of praise for Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Then, on January 25, at a public rally in Tamluk in East Midnapore, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader waxed eloquent about big names of the CPI (M) like Promode Dasgupta, Benoy Choudhury, Geeta Mukherjee, Biswanath Mukherjee and Sukumar Sengupta.

“I was never against the politics of the Left Front. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was a good man. I was against people like Laxman Seth (also a Marxist leader) and ‘harmad’ (distorted version of the Dutch word ‘armada’, which means pirates or goons known for their brutality) of the Left Front,” Suvendu said.

He didn’t stop there. Suvendu continued to praise CPI (M) leaders like Biman Bose, Buddhadeb and Congress's Bengal unit president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

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Suvendu stood beside Left Front chairperson Biman Bose, CPI (M) legislator Sujan Chakraborty and Adhir Chowdhury after Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee alleged that Saradha scam kingpin Sudipta Sen had claimed in a letter that these leaders (including Suvendu) took money from him.

Ever since Suvendu joined the BJP on December 19, 2020, he has strategically refrained from offending a majority of Left Front and Congress leaders and this hasn't gone unnoticed among political experts, who feel that the TMC turncoat is trying hard to retain the nearly 33 per cent Left and Congress vote share that shifted towards the saffron party from 2016 to 2019.

This became more evident as the TMC had managed to increase its vote share in this period by 3 per cent.

So the 33 per cent Left and Congress votes that gravitated towards the BJP were actually anti-TMC votes.

And to retain this vote share in the BJP and to stop reverse migration of voters, many in the CPI (M) feel, it is Suvendu’s calculated move to praise Left Front leaders in public rallies to win the confidence of this section of the electorate.

CPI (M) leader Amiya Patra said, “There may be a hype over Suvendu Adhikari but we are not paying much attention towards his statements. The person (Suvendu) who talks about sacrificing himself used to hold many plum posts during his tenure in the TMC. His family members used to hold several posts (including MP, MLAs, chairman of co-operative banks and various boards and organisations). His sudden praise for Left and Congress leaders is nothing but pure politics to prevent the reverse migration of Left and Congress vote share. But I feel that he will not be able to succeed as reverse migration has already started from many districts in Bengal.”

Similarly, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has also worked hard to tap into this 33 per cent vote share which went to the BJP mainly from the Left Front and Congress in her bid to win the assembly polls this year with a comfortable mandate.

In the 2016 assembly elections, the BJP’s vote share was 10.2 per cent and in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls it went up to 40.3 per cent. In the past three years, the BJP has managed to cultivate religion-driven politics in Bengal and it has been evident with its significant rise in Bengal in terms of its vote share.

A close look shows that from the 2011 assembly polls to the ones in 2016, the Left Front saw its vote share drop by 9.88 per cent and from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to the 2019 edition, its vote share further plummeted to nearly 16 per cent.

However, the Congress vote share from the 2011 to 2016 assembly elections went up from 8.91 per cent to 12.3 per cent but it fell dramatically in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to 9.6 per cent while in the 2019 general elections the party managed to secure only 5 per cent votes.

These votes, most of which were once with the Left Front and Congress, went to the BJP as there was no decline in the TMC’s vote share.

In the 2011 assembly elections, the Trinamool's vote share was 39 per cent, which increased to 39.56 per cent in 2016. Similarly, in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls the TMC’s vote share was 39.03 per cent, which the party managed to increase to 43.3 per cent in 2019.

The only factor which went in favour of the BJP is about 1 crore Left and Congress voters gravitating towards it, and this is exactly who Suvendu was tasked by the central BJP leadership to work on retaining.

Suvendu was once a close and trusted aide of Mamata Banerjee, but twenty years of his association with Didi came to an end on November 27, 2020, when he resigned from her cabinet.

On December 19, 2020, he formally joined the BJP at a public rally in the presence of union home minister Amit Shah in Bengal.

first published:January 30, 2021, 07:09 IST
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