While the Jangipur bypoll result does not change the political status quo in either the Centre or state,it reflected a sharp break from how the voters of West Bengal are known to cast their franchise. What was on display wasnt age old politics of polarisation but voters experimenting with new choices.
For decades,the electorate in Bengal has largely swung between the Left Front on one side and the Trinamool Congress,Congress on the other. As much as 90 per cent of the votes in successive polls have gone to either of the sides. The balance 10 to 12 per cent votes generally went to smaller political parties such as the BJP,BSP,Independents etc.
In Jangipur,with Pranab Mukherjees son Abhijit contesting,the two principal blocks of the Congress,Trinamool Congress and the CPM-led Left Front totalled 77 per cent votes (Congress 39 per cent and CPM 38 per cent). A huge chunk of 23 per cent of the votes went to the BJP (nearly 11 per cent),two new fundamentalist Muslim outfits Welfare Party of India and Social Democratic Front of India (over 8 per cent) and Independents and other smaller parties got the balance 4 per cent.
The BJPs brilliant show could be an outcome of local factors Hindus are angry for having lost land for the proposed Murshidabad campus of Aligarh Muslim University in the constituency.
The sharp decline in Congress vote share nearly 16 per cent from when Mukherjee won this seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls could also be attributed to communal factors as well as the rise in fertiliser prices,which has affected the largely agricultural electorate.
However,as Congress MP from Baharampur Adhir Chowdhury admitted,in the future,the party cannot afford to put up a Brahmin candidate in a constituency where 70 per cent of the electorate is Muslim.
Subrata is Editor,Kolkata