Lokniti-CSDS Result: BJP fails to build on 2014 foundation

Unlike 2014, when the party got relatively greater support among the middle class, there was no class pattern in the support for the BJP this time.

Written by Pranav Gupta , Shashwat Dhar , Nitin Mehta | New Delhi | Updated: May 22, 2016 8:10 am
west bengal elections 2016, west bengal polls, elections 2016, dilip ghosh, BJP, kolkata BJP, west bengal BJP, indian express Left to right : BJP West Bengal state president Dilip Ghosh, and Union Home minister Rajnath singh. Representational image. Express photo

Three seats and a vote share of 10% is the BJP’s best ever performance in an Assembly election in West Bengal. And yet, the party may look at this election as a lost opportunity, as it failed to build on the foundation it had laid in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when it got 17% of the vote and led in 24 Assembly segments. (Figure 1)

Unlike 2014, when the party got relatively greater support among the middle class, there was no class pattern in the support for the BJP this time.

Its campaign focused on the Malda incident, alleged revelations in the Narada sting tapes, and progress in the Saradha scam probe. The party also publicised steps taken by the central government, such as the declassification of files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mention of the Kolkata flyover collapse was a clear indication of the BJP’s focus on urban voters. Among urban respondents, an overwhelming 90% had heard of the Kolkata flyover collapse. Close to two-thirds of urban voters who had heard of this incident and wanted responsibility to be fixed for the tragedy, held the TMC and the construction company responsible. Despite this, the TMC remained way ahead even among urban voters (winning 49 out of the 64 urban seats), indicating that the flyover collapse did not end up determining their final choice.

Expectedly, the BJP performed relatively better in urban areas where it had a marginally higher vote share. The party secured 13% of the urban vote, 10% of the semi-urban vote and 9% of the vote in rural constituencies. (Table 1) Interestingly, while its rural vote share declined marginally as compared to the Lok Sabha election, it faced a heavy loss in urban areas. This could essentially be indicative of a shift of voters who had voted for the BJP to make Narendra Modi Prime Minister.

READ | Lokniti-CSDS post-poll analysis: Record Hindu swing in Assam, Cong in decline, states rising

Even the Malda incident did not bring the kind of electoral gains that the BJP would have hoped for. Awareness about the violence was quite low — only around a fifth of the voters had heard about it.

The declassification of central government files related to Netaji, an old promise made by many BJP leaders, was fulfilled earlier this year — probably with an eye on the upcoming elections. But in terms of larger public awareness, this was almost irrelevant, as more than 6 out of 10 respondents were not even aware of this step. Even among those who knew about it, many considered it to be no more than a pre-election political stunt.

It is uncertain whether this was a result of poor communication by the party or overestimation of the potential of this decision to bring electoral gain.

READ | Historic sweep powered by Mamata

Results from our survey indicate that the appraisal of central government schemes in the state is not as good as in some other states. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and accident insurance scheme have relatively high awareness, but the proportion of respondents who found central government schemes to be ineffective exceeded those who found them to be effective. A large chunk of voters could not form an opinion on them.

Though many in the BJP would like to see this performance as a glass half-full, in reality the BJP still remains a distant fourth in the state and needs to do a lot more before it can become a natural beneficiary of any anti-Mamata vote. The big question is whether the party can blur ideological lines in the future and attract Left voters dissatisfied with the TMC government.

Nitin Mehta, Pranav Gupta and Shashwat Dhar are with Lokniti-CSDS.
  1. नविन कुमार
    Nov 23, 2016 at 1:11 am
    दिलीप घोष जी के नेटवॉय मे भाजपा पश्चिम बंगाल मे आगे बढ़ेगी उनका कद बढेगा
    1. M
      May 22, 2016 at 4:05 pm
      What is more surprising is the fact the in spite of their total failure in West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, BJP is boasting that they have done excellently and Modi says it is a vote for his development plank. Where is the vote Mr Modi? You are blank in four states.
      1. S
        Suresh Shukla
        May 22, 2016 at 7:19 am
        My problem with BJP is that they only win in states where they are able to make Hindu-Muslim, the main issue as happened in am. Why can't they win with positive issues?
        1. Uttam Kumar
          May 22, 2016 at 4:06 am
          The BJP has been rejected by the Secular forces in Kerala, West Bengal, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu. Despite having money and Central power, they got only 60 odd seats -half of Congress seats of 120 plus. And, the Saffron terrorists are gloating about victory.
          1. Ramamurthi Kolagunta
            May 22, 2016 at 10:48 am
            Negative campaigning will no more attract voters. It became a fashion since 2014. Now the people want actions for a better life, happier life and safer life. Parties have to offer something to improve the quality of life. In some states the parties are adopting doling out freebies, to gain favors of the voters. But that is only a temporary satisfaction. It is more like mesmerizing -- a mirage. This freebies policy has been the mainstay of the Congress for decades. People have been mesmerized and that is the reality. It created a w lot of people who only depend on freebies--an indolent lot, virtually leading an animal life. It is a sad state of affairs that some states are still adopting this policy and contributing to a mediocre nation. In am BJP won because they offered to rid am of the infilteration menace. Whereas in other places they went about trying to pull the opposition down. Simply harping on other's mistakes is not enough. BJP should have offered what Didi has not been able to offer. It should have been the same in Kerala.
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