Bypolls to the three Assembly seats in West Bengal, which was being considered as a litmus test for the TMC and BJP ahead of the 2021 state elections, have put the BJP on the backfoot, much to the disappointment of the state leaders. The TMC on Thursday bagged all the three assembly seats — Kaliaganj, Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur — where bypolls were held on November 25.
In less than six months, TMC’s effort to regain its lost political ground from the BJP appeared to yield results.
On Thursday, while the TMC workers celebrated their party’s good show, the BJP headquarters in central Kolkata wore a relatively deserted look. The usual hustle bustle, which include series of meetings, huge gatherings of party workers and round-the-clock functioning of the media cell, was missing, replaced by the presence of only a handful of party workers at the BJP office.
BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is also in-charge of Bengal, alleged that the polls were not conducted fairly.
“The central forces were not used by the district administration. Several booths were occupied by the ruling party’s cadres to rig the bypolls. Had there been fair elections, the results would have been different. The results are a reflection of TMC’s misrule in Bengal,” Vijayvargiya said.
According to party insiders, most of the BJP state leaders felt that the TMC had highlighted the issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC) to create panic among people, and that affected the BJP adversely.
BJP’s Kaliaganj candidate Kamal Chandra Sarkar said, “We have lost despite having a massive lead in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. There has been serious confusion over the implementation of NRC in Bengal. We have failed to take people into confidence. The issue has played an important role as my constituency has a sizeable percentage of Rajbongshi voters who had supported us in the Lok Sabha polls, but shifted their loyalty to the TMC in the by-elections.”
The exclusion of a large number of Hindus from the NRC in neighbouring Assam had become an issue of concern for the saffron party now, as its leaders had promised to carry out the exercise in Bengal as well, if voted to power in 2021.
“The NRC issue definitely has played a role here. We couldn’t completely clear the confusion that was injected into the minds of the voters over the issue. TMC went door to door to misguide people over NRC implementation and that did affect us,” said BJP candidate from Karimpur seat, Jay Prakash Majumdar.
“Another factor was the Left votes went to TMC,” Majumdar added.
As per TMC party leaders, their counter campaign against the implementation of NRC worked in their favour.
“The BJP’s malicious plans to impose NRC in the state, which will turn citizens into refugees, didn’t go well with people. Here, people have understood that TMC is the only party that focuses on overall development in the state,” a TMC leader said on condition of anonymity.
The bypolls result has come as a major disappointment for BJP as the party had managed to increase its seat from two in 2014 to 18 in 2019 with 40.5 per cent votes. The TMC, on the other hand, had witnessed a slump in its number of seats down from 34 in 2014 to 22 this time.
On the other hand, state Transport Minister Subhendu Adhikari, who was appointed as the poll observer by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee for Kharagpur Sadar and Kaliaganj seat, said: “This is a victory in favour of secularism and unity.”