Opinion polls give BJP edge on TMC in West Bengal LS polls, but is it possible?


In an exclusive interview with news agency PTI, political strategist Prashant Kishor made a “surprising” prediction for Bengal in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. He said, “…the BJP is going to be the number one party in West Bengal.”

Before this, News18 Mega Opinion Poll 2024 also predicted that the BJP, led by Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari in Bengal, may win 25 out of 42 seats in the state. The poll, meanwhile, indicated that the TMC might get 17 seats.

The India TV-CNX poll predictions too were on the same line. It suggested that the BJP is likely to win 22 seats, while the TMC may emerge victorious on 19 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal.

In contrast, the ABP-CVoter opinion poll said the TMC is likely to top the seat tally in the state. As per the survey, the TMC may win 23 seats, while the BJP may trail closely at 19.

BJP VS TMC in Bengal: What may help BJP gain seats

1. Sandeshkhali incident: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have been attacking the TMC over the Sandeshkhali incident, for which, a TMC leader has been held responsible.

TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh and his associates were accused of sexual harassment and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali.

PM Modi and the BJP made this incident one of the poll issues in Bengal and held the TMC responsible for “atrocities inflicted on mothers and sisters” there. “The court itself had to intervene in everything here, it’s the TMC syndicate that rules here,” PM Modi said during a rally in Jalpaiguri.

2. TMC going solo in Bengal: Despite being a key ally of the Opposition’s INDIA bloc, Mamata Banerjee’s party decided to go solo in the 2024 elections. The TMC cited the delay in finalising the seat-sharing pact on the Congress’ part ahead of announcing candidates for all the 42 Lok Sabha seats.

This might have impacted the perception of the strength of the INDIA bloc. The Congress had earlier called Mamata Banerjee “one of the co-architects” of the opposition alliance which aims to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. However, Mamata Banerjee opting out of it in the state might hit the “optics” of the INDIA bloc and raise the question of whether the alliance is strong enough to run the country.

3. PM Modi star campaigner: Political experts have deemed Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the winning factor for the BJP today. On most occasions, the party has fought elections on PM Modi’s clout and won them. He seems to keep the party way ahead of its rivals in the states.

4. Effects of CAA implementation: The implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, may bolster the BJP’s prospects in certain constituencies — especially those having a large number of Matua, Dalit Bengali Hindus and Scheduled Caste groups who migrated from present-day Bangladesh.

Hindu refugees from Bangladesh form the Matua community in Bengal. The community forms a significant portion of West Bengal’s Scheduled Caste population. It had dubbed the day of CAA implementation as their “second independence day”.

The Bengal BJP feels that the CAA move will not only bring the party closer to the refugee community, especially the Matuas in the state but will also help it in the consolidation of the majority votes, news agency PTI reported.

“Implementation of CAA will have a direct impact in at least 10-12 constituencies and we are confident of winning all the Matuas and refugee community-dominated seats,” Union Minister and leader of the Matua community, Shantanu Thakur, was quoted as saying.

5. Discontent against TMC over corruption: PM Modi and other BJP leaders have time and again attacked TMC over corruption in the state. “For TMC, the priority is not the development of Bengal, but corruption, nepotism and betrayal. TMC wants to keep the people of Bengal poor so that its politics and game continues…,” PM Modi said in Krishananagar on March 2.

Besides Shahjahan Sheikh, a TMC strongman who faces allegations of “sexual assault and land grabbing” in Sandeshkhali, several TMC leaders have been under the scanner of central probe agencies over allegations of money laundering and corruption.

In 2022, the Enforcement Directorate recovered around 50 crore in cash, along with jewellery, from two flats of Arpita Mukherjee, the close aide of suspended TMC leader Partha Mukherjee, in southwest Kolkata and Belghoria.

Is BJP a threat? But TMC can’t be ignored: What numbers tell

The TMC has been winning West Bengal since 2011. It ousted the Left Front government headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI M), which was uninterruptedly in power in West Bengal from 1977 till May 2011.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the TMC won 22 of the 42 seats, bagging a vote share of around 43.5 percent. The BJP had won 18 seats (40.5 per cent votes) and the Congress two seats.

Just two years later, in the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections, the TMC had won 215 of the total 294 assembly seats in the state. The vote share of Mamata Banerjee’s party was 48.5 per cent. The BJP has won 77 seats.

1.TMC vs BJP performance in state elections

The BJP seems to have gained some ground in the West Bengal since 2016. A comparison with its tally in the 2016 assembly polls shows that the BJP’s tally increased from three in the 2016 state polls to 77 in the 2021 polls.

In 2016 state polls, the TMC had won 211 seats and in 2021, the party’s tally increased marginally to 215.

2. TMC vs BJP performance in Lok Sabha elections

At the national level too, a slight jump was seen in the BJP’s tally in Bengal. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won two seats. However, in the 2019 polls, it had won 18 seats.

While the BJP gained some numbers, the TMC lost some. 2014 was the first Lok Sabha polls since the TMC came to power in West Bengal in 2011. In the 2014 general elections, the TMC had won 34 seats, while in 2019, it won 22.

Mamata wooing minorities and migrants

Like every other election, this year too, Mamata Banerjee sees a significant vote bank in migrant workers and minorities in the state. She has been opposing the CAA, calling it a “trap to turn legal citizens into foreigners”.

Researchers told Down to Earth that most migrant voters were “apprehensive over BJP’s advocacy for CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC)”. Amid this, TMC leaders hope to leverage the CAA to highlight their stance against the BJP’s perceived “anti-Bengali” sentiments.

This comes in contrast to the BJP’s hope of wooing the Matua community and Dalit Bengali Hindus — thus bifurcating their target voters.

A TMC leader was quoted by news agency PTI as saying that the CAA implementation will help them consolidate the minority votes. 

“The minorities are wary of CAA implementation. It will also help us in getting the support of a large section of Bengali elite, who have moved away from the party over corruption issues and marginalised sections who lack proper documentation,” the leader said.

Meanwhile, experts said the issue of the CAA may have an impact on Matua-dominated seats such as Bongaon, Ranaghat, presently with the BJP, and Krishnanagar and parts of refugees-dominated seats. 

“But they also indicated that there could be a counter impact in minority-dominated seats of South and North Bengal, where the BJP had swept in 2019,” they added.

The Lok Sabha elections are set to take place this year in seven phases. The voting will begin on April 19 and the results will be announced on June 4.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 13 Apr 2024, 06:24 AM IST


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