Despite the BJP pulling out all the big guns and resources to contest the Assembly polls in West Bengal, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah extensively campaigning, the party struggled to cross double digits.
In fact, as per election results and leads till 6 pm, the BJP’s vote share stood at 37.70%, a decline of nearly 3% from its 40.30% votes in 2019. On the other hand, the TMC had increased its vote share to 48.20% from 43.30% in 2019. In other words, a 10% vote gap stood between the two parties.
Observers and BJP insiders blamed a range of factors for the party’s disappointing show: the lack of organisation at the booth level, wrong selection of candidates, bringing in of TMC turncoats, not having a CM candidate to take on Mamata Banerjee, too much dependence on central leaders, consolidation of Muslim votes towards the TMC, and lack of proper feedback.
“Maybe people did not accept candidates who came from other parties… We will analyse what went wrong. We tried our best to reach out to the people,” BJP state chief Dilip Ghosh said.
A senior BJP leader said, “We did win a lot of seats as a section of the people believed in us. We have established that it is the BJP vs the TMC in Bengal. But somehow Khela Hobe and Bengal’s daughter campaigns of the TMC were more acceptable than our Sonar Bangla approach and development promises.”
A majority of the BJP’s 46 candidates who joined from different parties, including 36 from the Trinamool, lost. After announcement of the candidate lists, the BJP had seen protests across the state, which were a sign of things to come that the party dismissed.
Party leaders said the BJP also failed to realise that the Trinamool had gained some of the ground lost by it by cracking down on corrupt party workers in areas like Jangalmahal and North Bengal. The frontal attacks on Mamata Banerjee may have also backfired.
True to her firebrand image, Mamata led the TMC from the front, addressing over a 100 rallies, most of them with her one leg in a cast.
The lack of local faces in comparison, leaving the entire campaign to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and J P Nadda, also appears to have been act of hubris. In districts like Howrah and Purba Medinipur, the BJP’s entire gameplan rested on TMC’s deserter stalwarts. But these failed to deliver, with the TMC winning all 16 seats in Howrah.