Facing setbacks in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, good news came for the BJP in West Bengal where the party won one of the two assembly seats where bypolls were held. The BJP’s victory in the Basirhat (South) seat came despite the might of the ruling Trinamol Congress and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s vow not to allow the BJP win a single seat in the state.
It was after a gap of 13 years that the BJP has found representation in the West Bengal assembly. Shamik Bhattacharya, who won the seat with a margin of 1,586 votes, said, “The victory indicates the political trend in Bengal — the BJP is fast emerging as the main opposition political party. It now officially enters the precincts of the assembly and will make more inroads in 2016.” Incidentally, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had come first in 21 assembly seats and second in nearly 40 assembly segments.
The last time the BJP won an assembly seat was when its candidate Badal Bhattacharya won the bypoll from Ashoknagar in North 24 Parganas in 1999. He was the MLA till 2001 when fresh assembly polls were held.
The chief minister, having realised that Basirhat (south) was a tough contest for the party as the BJP had surged ahead in this assembly segment by over 30,000 votes in the last Lok Sabha polls, had pressed all her might to win the seat. Top Trinamool Congress leaders who were given charge of the bypolls — almost half a dozen MPs, over 10 ministers and other top party functionaries — were crestfallen with the Basirhat (South) result. The leaders feared action from party chief Mamata Banerjee as she had repeatedly asked them to ensure that the BJP does not make a match out of this seat.
What went wrong will be analysed threadbare and action will be taken, said a top Trinamool leader who did not want to be named. Trinamool general secretary leader Mukul Roy, however, tried to put up a brave face, saying that the party had gained in Basirhat (south). “The TMC managed to recover 28,000 votes out of a Lok Sabha deficit of 30,000 votes,” he said.
The Basirhat (south) seat had been a CPM stronghold since 1977 and was vacated recently following the death of party MLA Narayan Mukherjee. The BJP victory is of much significance for more than one reason. First, this is the first time that the BJP has won as a single party. In 1999, when it won the Ashoknagar bypoll, the BJP had the Trinamool Congress as its ally.
The second important factor is a major shift of CPM support base towards the BJP fold. Also, the constituency has a large percentage of Muslim voters and a section of them have voted for the BJP candidate, the results indicated.
The Basirhat (south) result also indicated that the rural segments of this assembly seat continued to support the Trinamool Congress. Dipendu Biswas, a well-known Kolkata footballer who was the Trinamool candidate, surged ahead in the early rounds of counting reflecting gains in the rural belt. But as the counting entered the municipal limits of mofussil towns like Taki and Basirhat — the BJP candidate began to take a lead.
BJP state president Rahul Sinha was euphoric over the victory in Basirhat (south) and also over the result in Chowringhee assembly seat, where the party candidate Ritesh Tiwari came second to the victorious Trinamool nominee Nayna Bandopadhyay. “The results reflected not only the Saradha scam effects but the all-round failure of the Trinamol Congress government to deliver. The TMC managed to scrape through in Chowringhee seat with the blessings of the Muslims whom the government was wooing desperately with false promises. It is just a matter of time before the Muslims too are disillusioned and switch to the BJP fold.”
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