April 19, 2021
West Bengal Assembly Election 2021

West Bengal Assembly Election 2021

The assembly elections in Bengal are being portrayed as the most crucial ever for the people and character of the state. This is now essentially a Two-party fight between the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress or, as some analysts are pitching it, a two-personality fight between Amit Shah and Mamata Banerjee’s party. The BJP says that if Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool wins again, “the appeasement of minorities will increase and the Hindu majority will suffer. Moreover there will be an atmosphere of violence and goonda-gardi”.The Trinamool says that if the BJP wins, ” the basic character of Bengal will change forever, no longer will every community live in harmony, even the essence of Bengal’s history crafted by Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda _will be broken as non-Bengal ‘outsiders’ will rule Bengal from the centre”.       These polar-opposite views are, of course, outrageous and extreme-but they do underline the depth and intensity of how acutely divided Bengal politics is today. 
          Intensifying the interest is this election is that it is seen to be a close fight. The spectacle of many Trinamool or TMC leaders switching to the BJP has also sent signals  that perhaps there is a trend towards Amit Shah who is once again the chief architect of the BJP election strategy. 
            The perception of a possibly close election is based on the unexpectedly close fight in the recent 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Bengal: the number of assembly segments won by the BJP not only crossed the 100- mark, it soared to make the BJP the Overwhelmingly clear runner-up party in Bengal. The BJP being so strong in Bengal was virtually unthinkable three years earlier when it won only 6 of the 294 seats in the assembly elections. Rocketing from six assembly segments to 121 in just three  years is not unprecedented in Indian electoral history, but is certainly close to being a record in Bengal. 
             The increase in vote share for the BJP was perhaps even more stunning. The party, which throughout Bengal’s history had little or no ground support, was suddenly only three percent short of the TMC ‘s 44 percent and six to seven- times higher than the support for the left parties and the Congress. For many analysts, this three percent difference between the leader and runner-up indicated that the BJP + could now overtake the TMC.                          But as always, there’s a twist_in fact, several twists_in the tale. The rise in support for BJP did not come at the expense of Mamata’s TMC, which held on to virtually its entire support base. 
                   It is striking that the swing of the BJP + of 30 percent was almost exactly identical to the cumulative swing away from the left and the Congress. Voter support for the left plus the Congress dropped by 27 percent, an indicator that most of those who voted earlier for the left and for the Congress switched to the BJP, and not to the TMC. Yet, the left and the Congress seem to believe the ‘biggest enemy’ is the TMC, not the BJP. There are well-known historical reasons behind this animosity. 
                      In order to get a majority and form the next government in Bengal, the BJP needs to do even better than it did in 2019_ in fact, it needs to increase its 2019 vote with a swing of + 2 percent. And even a 2 percent swing in its favour over its record 2019 vote will give the BJP only a very narrow margin of victory 155 seats compared with the TMC ‘s 130 seats. On the contrary, the downside is disastrous for the BJP. A 2 percent swing away from the BJP will give it less than 100 seats, which is 65 percent of the total of 294 seats. 
                       So, can the BJP hope or expect to get a small swing in its favour of 2 percent – 3 percent and win these 2021 Bengal elctions? The discomforting news for the BJP’s that the party’s recent performance is assembly elections in other states over the last two years does not allow for much optimism.                                                In every single state assembly election since the 2019 Lok Sabha, the BJP has encountered a swing _in fact, large swings against the party, ranging from – 9 percent to as much as -22 percent. In the five bigger states that have held elections since 2019 , the average swing against the BJP has been a huge 13 percent. It is the systematic negative swing, without exception, that would be a major worry for the BJP.                                               There are two basic factors behind the BJP averaging 13 percent to 17 percent worse in assembly elections compared with its excellent performance in the Lok Sabha. First, the individual popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Secondly, we are witnessing an amazing rise of federalism and Sub-nationalism I India. 
                         Finally, this table below is not a forecast. It is merely a mathematical indicator that if the BJP does even half as badly in Bengal as it has in the last 10 assembly elections, it could be routed in Bengal. This may -in fact, will change in the Bengal election because if there is one constant truth about elections, it is the guarantee that voting behavior is full of surprises. We saw West Bengal Minister Mamata Banerjee’s confidence that the Trinamool Congress would retain power in the state and throw the BJP out in the Assembly polls. We have to win Bengal. So it can be said that TMC can win in 2021 election result.

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