Lesson from West Bengal: Modi-Shah duo is not invincible
New Delhi, May 2:By winning West Bengal handsomely for a record third term, Mamata Banerjee has shown that the Modi-Shah duo is not invincible. She may have lost personally from Nandigram, but the TMC victory could signal coming together of all anti-BJP forces in the next national elections. The Trinamool Congress trounced BJP convincingly despite an all-out effort made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah who left nothing to chance to unseat her from power.
The BJP can take solace from the fact that it increased its tally of three MLAs in 2016 to 78 this time. But this is not what the BJP fought for. “This is a victory for the people of West Bengal. A victory of democracy”, roared Mamata in her first public address made to her supporters outside her house soon after the TMC victory. The BJP will now be forced to change its strategy in West Bengal. Polarization on communal lines, obviously, came unstuck—at least this time. There was massive counter polarization in TMC’s favour, in the process obliterating other parties like the once-mighty CPM and the Congress.
The BJP’s powerful general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijaybhergia admitted that the entire Opposition united to defeat his party after senior leader Sharad Pawar gave a call to come together to stop the BJP’s march in the state. Not only the Congress, even the left parties, according to him, joined hands with TMC to defeat the BJP. There will be explanations galore from the BJP, but what is clear is that the voters of West Bengal rejected the BJP in no uncertain terms.
There are several factors responsible for the BJP’s less than expected showing. Its attempts to break the TMC ranks on the eve of the elections did not find favor with voters. So were the personal attacks on Mamata Banerjee by top party leaders. The abrasive style of campaigning too appears to have gone against the BJP. Mamata’s ‘Outsider-Insider’ jibe also seems to have found consonance with voters who saw the possible win of the BJP as an intrusion in their lives.
Mamata’s win should logically lead to Opposition consolidation at the national level if the BJP’s unbridled march is to be halted. It is slightly more than three years for the next parliamentary elections in 2024. But the Opposition parties have their job cut out from now. The question that will arise henceforth is: can Mamata Banerjee be the rallying figure for the prime ministerial post? Mamata has already thrown a challenge to Modi from Varanasi. It could be election-time rhetoric, but going forward, it may mean much.
Congress party’s dismal performance again in the assembly elections may facilitate Opposition unity at the national level. Rahul Gandhi’s claim for leadership is as good as gone. Much will depend on the first family’s response to the situation. Sharad Pawar may play a role as he did for Bengal this time round. A churning in Opposition ranks cannot be ruled out.
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