Updated: April 18, 2022 7:22:24 am
The BJP’s losing streak in West Bengal since the Assembly polls last year continued on Saturday as the party failed to win the Asansol Lok Sabha and Ballygunge Assembly bye-elections. Not only did the party see the Asansol Lok Sabha seat slip away to the TMC, its candidate lost her deposit in the Ballygunge Assembly constituency as well. Soon after bypoll results were out, BJP MP Saumitra Khan trained his guns at the party’s state leadership for the latest electoral debacle.
“When inexperienced politicians run a political party then this kind of result is expected. We are paying the price for it. This is what happens when you don’t have experienced leaders running the party. We have a lot to learn from the Trinamool Congress. They have shown how best to do politics. We have to fight a lot. However, we cannot expect electoral results to go our way as long as there are inexperienced leaders in key party posts. They must bring back the expelled leaders back to our party,” Khan said in a video message.
It was apparent from his statements that the party MP was training his guns at BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar and the party’s state general secretary (organisation) Amitava Chakravorty. In January, the party had expelled several leaders, including senior members Jay Prakash Majumdar and Ritesh Tiwari, for speaking against the party. Majumdar later joined the TMC.
Reacting to the BJP MP’s remarks, Majumdar said, “When I was with the BJP, I had said the same thing. Their inexperienced leaders cannot run the party and fight against a party like the TMC. To save the party, they must win back the confidence of its grassroots-level workers. The BJP leaders should revolt against the present state leadership and bring in new and experienced leaders.”
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Asked to comment on the party’s dismal showing, the BJP state president said, “There are a lot of factors which contributed to this electoral result. We will definitely introspect. But it is true that a large number of people could not vote due to TMC’s terror.”
In Asansol, former Union minister turned TMC candidate Shatrughan Sinha won the Asansol seat by a massive margin of 3,03,209 votes, with BJP MLA Agnimitra Paul, the party’s candidate in the bypoll, finishing a distant second. Sinha bagged 6,56,358 votes while Paul got 3,53,149 votes.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Babul Supriyo had defeated TMC candidate Moon Moon Sen by a margin of 1,97,637 votes, securing 51.56 per cent of the total votes polled. In 2014, Supriyo’s victory margin was 70,480 votes.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Asansol was one of the two seats that the BJP won in West Bengal — the other being Darjeeling. While the BJP candidate in Darjeeling, SS Ahluwalia, received support from the party’s then alliance partner Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), the victory in Asansol in 2014 was, however, largely down to the BJP’s own strength.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his campaign in Asansol in 2014, had said, “Parliament main mujhe Babul chahiye (I want Babul in the Parliament).”
In 2019, the BJP turned in a spectacular performance in West Bengal, winning 18 seats, including Asansol. Now with the TMC wresting Asansol from it, the BJP’s Lok Sabha tally from Bengal has dropped to 17.
Although the Ballygunge Assembly constituency has always been a TMC stronghold, BJP’s Keya Ghosh finished third in the eventual tally and lost her deposit.
Ditching the saffron camp for the TMC helped Supriyo return to his winning ways as he won the prestigious Ballygunge constituency in south Kolkata by a margin of 20,228 votes. The CPM finished second while the BJP emerged as a distant third. Of the total votes polled, Supriyo bagged 51,199 while CPM candidate Saira Shah Halim obtained 30,971 votes.
On a run of losses since 2021 Assembly polls
Since the Assembly polls last year, when the party won 77 seats, the BJP has failed to win a single election in West Bengal.
From being the main contender to the TMC, the saffron camp is now competing with the CPM to retain the second position.
In the February civic elections — the first big polls in the state since the Assembly polls, the party failed to win any of the 108 municipalities in the state. The Trinamool won 102 of these civic bodies, the CPI(M) won one (Taherpur municipality in Nadia district) and the newly launched Hamro Party won Darjeeling.
Of the total 2,171 wards across 108 municipalities, the BJP won only 63 compared to the Trinamool’s 1,870. The party’s vote share stood at 13 per cent, behind the Left’s 14 per cent, marking a steep fall from its 40 per cent voteshare in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Besides, the party also suffered setbacks in the bypolls late last year while losing the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections and subsequent municipal elections.
For its next big test, the panchayat elections that are due next year, the BJP will have to put in a lot of work to galvanise its rank-and-file into action. With the Left regaining lost ground, the BJP now has the twin challenge of tackling both the Trinamool and the Left.
“People have lost their faith in the BJP. The Narendra Modi government has failed to deliver and has only left the voters disappointed. People have rejected them. The elections have proved that there is no alternative to the TMC in Bengal. People here have full faith in the leadership of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim said.
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