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BJP or Left Front: Who will lead the race for Opposition in West Bengal

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 - 3:00pm IST | Agency: dna

Claude Levi Strauss, French anthropologist and ethnologist and the pioneer of structuralism wrote something very significant in his remarkable work 'Myth and Meaning'. He said, “To say that a way of thinking is disinterested and that it is an intellectual way of thinking does not mean at all that it is equal to scientific thinking. Of course, it remains different in a way, and inferior in another way. It remains indifferent because its aim is to reach by the shortest possible means a general understanding of the universe-and not only a general but a total understanding. That is, it is a way of thinking which must imply that if you don’t understand everything, you don’t explain everything.”

Left politicians and analysts seems to be following the same thing while explaining the upsurge of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the disastrous results by Left Front in West Bengal in this Lok Sabha elections. Either they are not ready to understand everything and explain everything or they indeed don’t understand everything and that’s why not explaining everything. But one thing is very clear to them with latest poll results- BJP has arrived in Bengal and eating up mostly the left votes instead of Trinamool Congress (TMC) ones as many analyst predicted earlier.

BJP has got the highest ever voting percentage in the state with 16.8%. Even at the height of Ram Janmabhumi movement in 1991, it could only secure 11.66% of the votes polled. So the obvious impact of Modi wave is there. But whether it would be able to challenge the CPM led Left Front’s role as opposition in 2016 assembly elections is still a question. Both BJP and CPM (which ruled Bengal for three decades) could only get two seats each in this Loksabha election.

Apart from Kolkata North and South and Malda South, where BJP is in second position, the party has only managed to retain the third position in 31 of the 42 constituencies of Bengal. Among them in around 20 seats, the gap between the candidates at second and third position is more than 1.5 lakh which doesn’t bode well for BJP in future as prominent player in Bengal politics. BJP still lacks organisational strength in Bengal and at many places it got votes without even campaigning which again alludes to the Modi wave. The question is how long this wave will sustain in the murky waters of Bengal to propel BJP into the role of main opposition. 

On the other side, CPM has got only 22.7% of the votes polled and other three left allies could manage together only further 7% in this elections which clearly shows a dismal situation for them. The landslide in the support base of left parties that started with the misadventures of left government with regard to the Singur and Nandigram movement seems to have only kept on with this election. 

Already district units of left parties have started revolt against the state and central leadership for the mismanagement of poll campaign and debacle in election results. Unfortunately, Biman Bose and Prakash Karat are yet to take responsibility for their failures. Rather they are busy piggybacking on the excuse of massive election fraud allegedly committed by the TMC for poor performance by left which people are not buying anymore. They are not explaining everything.

Left leadership in Bengal now fears that in the coming days more and more of its supporters, who are at the receiving end of the TMC backed violence, will choose BJP over them with Modi at the helm of centre. With a weak left, they can see Modi as a strongman who can provide protection to them from the onslaughts of TMC on their lives and properties. Whereas in 2011 assembly elections when Mamata wave was at its peak, Left Front still got 62 seats. But the picture in 2014 is more sombre for them where they could only manage to get lead in 27 assembly constituencies. So the Bengal left is in dire need of a turnaround in the state if it wishes to remain relevant there.

But it is West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is smiling all the way and can claim that her party stopped the Modi wave to a great extent in West Bengal. TMC got 34 of the 42 seats in Bengal and secured 39.3% of the votes polled which suggests it has not lost any ground among its supporters. 

Loksabha results in Bengal points to a very interesting fact and that is, Bengal voters are still overwhelmingly extending support to the party which promises left leaning ideologies. The way Mamata led a visible campaign against UPA leadership on the issue of deregularisation of petroleum products, Foreign Direct Investment, pension and banking reforms and withdrawal of fertiliser subsidies, it found no match with the low key movements led by left parties on the same policies.

When Modi campaigned in Bengal and raised issues with religious overtones like only Durga worshipping Bangladeshis are welcome in the state, people watched Mamata literally abusing a future prime minister and issuing threats of arresting him for hate speech in her state. From BJP to Election Commission, Mamata made it a David versus Goliath battle and voters lapped it up. If strong leadership was the pitch offered by BJP at the centre, Mamata offered the same in the state and left looked lost in this battle. 

The road ahead for BJP in the state is quite a bumpy ride. If it moves forward on the Gorkhaland issue, it would have devastating consequences on the future of the party in the plains. If Modi takes unpopular decisions on economic reforms which it will supposedly take very soon, it may disillusion the voters who voted for him only due to various local factors. The sustainability of Modi wave in Bengal depends on the future actions by the Prime Minister now who will have a hard time to convince Bengal voters to support his economic right policies. 

And only time will tell, if Left Front can bounce back and replace TMC as the true left alternative in the state who can take on a right government in the centre.


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