How Consolidation of Hindu Votes, Split in TMC's Muslim Votes Ups BJP's Chance to Win Bengal in 2021

Representative image.

Representative image.

More than 70 per cent Muslims voted for the ruling TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and this is why the state BJP on Tuesday arranged a brainstorming session to address this challenge ahead of the elections.

Sujit Nath

For decades, matrimonial pages of vernacular dailies in West Bengal have been silently speaking about the caste factor in this cultural capital of India.

Once the fiefdom of the CPI(M) – that was part of the state's ruling regime for 34 years from 1977 to 2011 – the caste factor behind the Left’s dominance in Bengal politics never hit the headlines till the Trinamool Congress came to power in 2011.

Mamata Banerjee demolished the hegemonic rule of the Left while riding the Singur and Nandigram anti-land acquisition movements. But following the two historic agitations that reduced the Left to insignificance in the state’s politics, the TMC’s ‘appeasement politics’ towards the dominant minorities was a well-thought strategy by Mamata to steer the party forward.

The BJP saw a huge political opportunity on the other side in consolidating the Hindu votes and started playing the 'Hindu card' with marked success. In 2014, Dilip Ghosh, an active RSS worker, was appointed state general secretary and in 2015 he was promoted to state party president.

The strategy worked well and in the 2019 parliamentary polls the BJP managed to secure nearly 57 per cent Hindu votes against 32 per cent vote for the TMC.

The saffron party won 18 of the state's 42 Lok Sabha, only four less than the TMC’s 22.

A close analysis reveals, except Muslims, others such as upper caste Hindus, OBCs, Dalits, and tribals voted in large numbers in favour of the BJP. While 57 per cent upper-caste people voted for the BJP, only 31 per cent backed the TMC.

Similarly, nearly 65 per cent OBCs favoured the BJP and 28 per cent voted for the TMC. However, as compared to 2014 statistics, there was an increase of 2 per cent in TMC’s vote share from OBCs. Nearly 61 per cent Dalits voted for the BJP and TMC got only 26.9 per cent, while 58 per cent tribals voted for the BJP and only 28 per cent for the Trinamool.

However, the game changer was more than 70 per cent Muslims voting for the ruling TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and this is why the state BJP on Tuesday arranged a brainstorming session to address this challenge ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.

“Today, all state BJP leaders will sit for a meeting to plan the poll preparedness in Bengal. All senior party leaders including BL Santhosh, Amit Malviya, Arvind Menon, Shiv Prakash, Kailash Vijayvargiya ji will be present,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

Apart from Vijayvargiya, Malviya was also made in-charge of Bengal and Tuesday’s meeting would be his first in the state after assuming the new responsibility.

With elections to the 294-member state assembly scheduled to be held in early 2021 and in the midst of "vote cutter" AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi’s decision to contest the Bengal polls, the state BJP in today’s meeting will chalk out strategy to break the TMC’s Muslim vote base in 98 assembly seats in Bengal. Besides plans to take the Centre’s achievements before the masses in the state, the party will also decide various campaign models against Mamata Banerjee at the ground level and through social media.

“Though Asaduddin Owaisi managed to secure only five assembly seats in the Bihar assembly polls, it was enough to scuttle the Mahagathbandhan’s hopes of outdoing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state. A similar situation is going to emerge in Bengal this time,” a senior BJP leader from the party's minority cell said.

Recently, BJP vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar had said, “Trouble for Mamata Banerjee is inevitable as influential Muslim groups in Bengal are in talks with Asaduddin Owaisi. They are planning to contest the state polls in at least more than these 60 seats. This time division of Muslim vote share is certain, which means the end of TMC in Bengal.”

In the 2016 assembly polls, out of the state's 294 seats, Mamata won 211, and of these 211, 98 constituencies were won largely due to Muslim vote factor.

The BJP has worked this out and is keen to make inroads into these 98 assembly seats, which tilted the balance in favour of Mamata Banerjee in the last state polls.

In 68 seats of these 98 seats, the vote share of Muslims is 30 per cent, while in 20 seats their vote share is 20 percent.

Speaking to News18, political expert Kapil Thakur said, “Caste-based politics was always present in Bengal but it was never highlighted. Now it is out in the open as the BJP has made it very clear that it is trying to consolidate the Hindu votes and split the Muslim votes. The BJP is going all out with the Hindu card and this has forced Mamata to announce several sops for Hindus in her recent meetings. One of the crucial announcements was allowances for Sanatan priests.”

Presently, as per internal assessment of the TMC, it is comfortably ahead of the BJP at the booth level in 165-170 seats, including the 98 where Muslim votes are a major factor, and 70 primarily dominated by Hindus.

Setting aside any possible repercussions of the CAA-NRC issue, according to the BJP’s internal assessment, out of the 294 assembly seats, Muslim votes are not decisive on 226, and this could give the party a big advantage the upcoming polls.

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