She may have been slammed for her minority appeasement schemes, but if the voting percentage is anything to go by, it is the 28 per cent vote share of Muslims in West Bengal, which helped Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress win 34 seats in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
Also, Mamata’s verbal duel with Narendra Modi during campaigning changed the four-cornered contest between Congress, CPM, TMC and BJP into a bipolar fight between her and Modi. It 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, including the minorities, fully supported Mamata and vice -versa,” said Udayan Bandopadhaya, a political analyst.
His claim is cemented by the vote share statistics, which demonstrate the TMC sweep in south Bengal, which had a high concentration of Muslims. TMC candidates won in eight of the 14 LS seats with high Muslim concentration, while the Congress won in four, and the Left in two. Of the eight, TMC wrested the Burdwan East, a traditional Left stronghold.
The Congress 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 TMC 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.
Mamata’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 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.
(With PTI inputs)