Kolkata, May 18 UNI | 2 months ago

Making a sensational foray in West Bengal, where the party had all along been a minuscule force, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has established itself as a major challenger to the ruling Trinamool Congress in near future.

Not only has the party won two Lok Sabha seats -- Darjeeling and Asansol -- but also increased its share of votes by a whopping 13 per cent, ending second in three constituencies seats where they relegated the CPI(M) to the third spot and finished at the top in as many as 21 Assembly segments -- a feat the BJP would not have dreamed of performing in the past.

Contesting all the 42 constituencies in the state, the BJP's vote share leapfrogged to 17 per cent from around six per cent in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and four per cent it secured in the 2011 Assembly elections. In 13 of these 42 constituencies, the party cornered 20 per cent votes. A simple arithmetical calculation indicates that keeping aside 29 per cent Muslim votes in West Bengal, the BJP managed to claim one-third of the rest of the votes.

Unlike in 2009 when the major chunk of the party's 6.5 per cent votes was concentrated in Darjeeling and few other pockets, making it minuscule in rest of the state, this time the BJP's share of votes increased by two to seven fold in all the constituencies with the percentage being minimum at 5.17 per cent (Mathurapur) and maximum at 42.75 per cent (Darjeeling). The maximum increase of votes the party registered was in Asansol (36.84 per cent from 5.56 per cent), a constituency previously held by the Left for quarter of a century, where its star candidate Babul Supriyo emerged victorious.

Psephologists had no inkling about the dramatic rise of the BJP's strength in pre-poll surveys, which otherwise came more or less true as far as the fates of the Trinamool and the Left were concerned.

Besides winning two seats, BJP came second in both the constituencies in the city -- Kolkata Uttar and Kolkata Dakshin, both Trinamool strongholds, where it put up an astonishing performance.

While the Trinamool retained both the constituencies, the BJP bagged 26 per cent of the mandate in Kolkata Uttar and 25 per cent in Kolkata Dakshin. BJP state president Rahul Sinha received over 2.47 lakh votes in Kolkata Uttar, where its candidate had got just 37,044 votes in 2009. On the other hand, veteran party leader Tathagata Roy polled 2.95-lakh-plus votes in Kolkata Dakshin where the party got had secured only 39,744 votes in the last Lok Sabha polls. What came more stunning was the fact that Roy led by 115 votes in the Bhowanipore Assembly segment, from where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee got elected to the state legislature. Malda South, won by Congress veteran Abu Hassem Khan Chowdhury, was the other seat where the BJP came second with the party nonimee Bishnupada Roy garnering 2.16 lakh votes as against barely 44,000 votes the party got in 2009.

The pattern of voting made it clear that BJP's gain came largely at the cost of the CPI(M)-led Left Front as a huge number of its voters voted for the saffron party this time.

The reason for this is being attributed to the desperate attempt of the Left supporters, cornered under the dominance of the Trinamool in the state, to find an organisation to rally behind, particularly when a wave created by Narendra Modi was rising all over the country.

The trend might signal danger for the Left as well as it has already been pushed to the brink.

Even as the Trinamool benefited from the division of the anti-votes which constituted about 61 per cent of the total votes polled, the rise of the BJP in West Bengal signalled its potential to be one of the major contenders of the ruling party in next year's municipal elections and the Assembly polls to be held in 2016.

The 21 Assembly segments where the BJP finished ahead of the others are Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Siliguri, Matigara-Nakshalbari, Matharihat, Kalchini, Nagrakata, Phansideoa, Islampur, Englishbazar, Krishnanagar Uttar, Basirhat Dakshin, Asansol Dakshin, Asansol Uttar, Kulti, Barabani, Raniganj, Bidhannagar, Bhowanipore, Jorasanko, Bhatpara, Sreerampore and Kharagpur Sadar.

Spurred by the success, the BJP's state leadership is concentrating on putting up a good show in the election for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, to be held next year. According to an estimate on the basis of the Lok Sabha results, while the BJP was ahead in Bhowanipur and Jorasanko Assembly segments in Kolkata, it was in leading position in at least 37 of the Kolkata Corporations's 141 wards. In the city corporation the BJP at present has only three councillors.

'The BJP is emerging as the main rival of the Trinamool Congress. We are concentrating from now on the polls for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to be held next year,' BJP state President Rahul Sinha said.

(Posted on 19-05-2014)