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Mamata Banerjee holds fort in West Bengal with consolidation of Muslim votes

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 - 4:15pm IST | Place: Kolkatta | Agency: PTI

 The BJP made inroads in West Bengal winning two seats, but Narendra Modi's dream run was halted by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee who benefited from the 28 per cent vote share of Muslims which contributed to the TMC sweep in the state. The TMC won 34 out of the 42 seats with a 39.4 per cent vote share, the Congress 4 seats with 9 per cent vote share and the Left registered its worst performance since Independence winning two seats with 23 per cent vote share.

The BJP, which till yesterday was considered irrelevant in the state's politics gave a stellar performance bagging 17.06 percent vote share with two seats. The party's vote share rose by 12 per cent since last Lok Sabha polls in 2009. The 28 per cent Muslim vote share in Bengal, which is considered the route to power, helped Mamata. Mamata's verbal duel with Modi during campaigning in the state not only changed the perceived four corner contest between Congress, CPI(M), Trinamool and BJP into a bipolar fight between her and Modi, but also helped her in consolidating the votes of Muslims in south Bengal and parts of north Bengal.

"The election was more of yes Modi-no-Modi. Those who were opposed to Modi in Bengal including the minorities fully supported Mamata and those opposed to Mamata went with the BJP this time," said Udayan Bandopadhaya, a political analyst. Bandopadhaya's claim was cemented by the vote share statistics which demonstrated the TMC sweep in south Bengal, which had a high concentration of Muslims.

Trinamoool Congress candidates won in eight of 14 Lok Sabha seats with high Muslim concentration, while the Congress won in four, and the Left in two. Of the eight seats, TMC wrested the Burdwan East seat, a traditional Left stronghold. The Congress, which was routed in the entire country fought back anti-incumbency in the state because of polarisation of the Yes-Modi and No-Modi votes and was able to hold on to four out of its six seats.

Malda North, Malda South, Berhampore and Jangipur, all with a high minority concentration of Muslims returned Congress candidates. Raiganj, which the Congress lost to the Left because of a division of votes, also voted heavily in favour of Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunsi bringing down her losing margin to near about 1500 votes. The Muslims, who were a traditional vote base of the Left since the late seventies, switched over to the Trinamool Congress in the backdrop of the Sachar Committee's revelation of the dismal condition of the community in the state and the anti-land acquisition movement. 

Banerjee's aggressive courting of Muslims with her government granting allowance to 30,000 imams in the state, and announcing a slew of sops like employment and scholarships helped her in consolidating her minority vote base.The importance of the Muslim vote base could be gauged from the fact that of 42 Lok Sabha seats there were 20 seats where a swing in minority vote share could make a difference.

The biggest political casualty of the polarisation was the Left, which not only failed to gauge the changing political demography after the Mamata-Modi verbal duel, but also lost much of its political ground which it was able to sustain since the 2011 Assembly debacle. The Left's vote share which fell by nearly 12 per cent from the 41 per cent lost a substantial part of the Muslim voters to the Trinamool Congress. To a majority of the Muslims, Trinamool and not the Left was the best bet against the BJP.

The Left which was under the political illusion that BJP would cut into the vote share of TMC, ceded more than 12 per cent of its vote share which was anti-Mamata to BJP. "The Left couldn't gauge what was happening. The nominal Muslim vote bank which was still with the Left shifted to TMC and the anti-Mamata vote bank of the Left switched over to BJP," added Bandopadhya.




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