The results of the bypolls to four Assembly constituencies in Bengal prove that the BJP continues to pay a heavy price for its many mistakes in the state. The Trinamool not only bagged all the four seats in Bengal with huge margins, it also inflicted humiliating defeats on the BJP candidates in two seats which the saffron party had won just a few months ago.
The biggest upset for the BJP was in Dinhata Assembly seat, considered to be the pocket borough of Cooch Behar Lok Sabha MP Nisith Pramanik who was inducted into the Union Ministry and is the junior home minister now.
Pramanik, who had decisively won the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat in 2019 by defeating his nearest Trinamool rival by nearly 55,000 votes, contested the Assembly polls from Dinhata (part of his Lok Sabha seat) a few months ago.
Pramanik defeated the Trinamool’s Udayan Guha, but only by 57 votes, earlier this year. He then gave up his Assembly seat to remain a Lok Sabha MP, thus necessitating the bypoll.
Guha, who had won this seat in 2011 and 2016, defeated the BJP’s Ashok Mondal by a record margin of over 1.63 lakh votes this time. Mondal, who was with the Trinamool earlier and had won this seat in 2006, joined the BJP some time ago.
The ignominious defeat was made worse by the BJP candidate faring miserably even in the area where Pramanik resides. Mondal got only 95 votes in that polling booth while the Trinamool’s Guha got nearly 400 votes.
The loss of Dinhata in North Bengal is a huge setback for the BJP since it had won seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats from that region in 2019 and considers that region its stronghold.
The BJP had won the Santipur Assembly seat a few months ago when the saffron party’s Jagannath Sarkar defeated the Trinamool candidate by nearly 16,000 votes. Sarkar is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Ranaghat (Santipur Assembly seat falls within Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency). Like Pramanik, Sarkar also gave up his Assembly seat to remain a Lok Sabha MP.
The Trinamool’s Braja Kishore Goswami defeated BJP’s Niranjan Biswas by a huge margin. This loss is also very embarrassing for the BJP.
The by-elections in these two seats was necessitated by the deaths of the Trinamool’s victorious candidates due to Covid.
In the Assembly polls held a few months ago, Trinamool’s Jayanta Naskar bagged the Gosaba seat by defeating his nearest BJP rival by 23,709 votes. Naskar succumbed to Covid infection in late June, thus necessitating the bypoll.
In Khardah, the Trinamool’s Kajal Sinha defeated the BJP’s Shilabhadra Dutta by 28,140 votes a few months ago. Sinha died in April before the declaration of results.
In Gosaba this time, the Trinamool’s Subrata Mondal inflicted a crushing defeat on the BJP’s Palash Raha by over 1.43 lakh votes! In Khardah, state agriculture minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay (he had won the Bhabanipur seat earlier this year but vacated it for Mamata Banerjee) defeated BJP’s Joy Saha by nearly 94,000 votes.
In percentage terms, the BJP’s vote share in Gosaba fell from 42.88 percent to a miserable 9.95 percent. In Khardah, it fell from 33.67 percent to 13.07 percent.
The disgraceful defeat of the BJP in all these four seats represents a disaster for the party. While it is expected that the ruling party always retains a big advantage in by-elections, especially when held so close to the general Assembly polls, the scale of the Trinamool’s victory and BJP’s defeat is shameful.
But the BJP has only itself to blame for the inglorious manner in which it has had to bite the dust. After the poll blow that it suffered exactly six months ago, it did little to put its house in order.
The BJP’s conduct in the aftermath of its defeat six months ago shattered the confidence of even the party’s most committed supporters. The BJP leadership--both in the Centre and the state--failed to stand by the party’s beleaguered workers and supporters who faced horrific attacks from Trinamool goons.
BJP workers and supporters were attacked, assaulted, maimed and over 50 of them were killed. Thousands were hounded out of their houses, which were looted while countless women were allegedly molested and raped.
The silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who had campaigned actively and intensively before the Assembly polls, was deafening. BJP workers and supporters were left disappointed by the failure of Modi and Shah to utter even a word of condemnation of the post-poll violence that left many BJP workers dead, injured and homeless.
As if on cue, other senior BJP leaders did not even visit the violence-affected areas to stand in solidarity with their party workers who were facing attacks from Trinamool goons. Such visits, when they happened, were few and far between and often undertaken for publicity.
The BJP leadership, by failing to stand by the party’s hapless workers and supporters, displayed an absence of spunk and spine. The shameful defeat of the party’s candidates in the four Assembly seats is the direct fallout of this.
“The memories of the horrendous post-poll violence are still fresh in people’s minds. Every voter in Bengal knows by now that the BJP leadership won’t stand by him if he supports that party. The Trinamool is a vengeful party and thanks to its strong network at the ground level, it can easily find out who voted for which party. So people very naturally decided to play it safe and vote en masse for the Trinamool,” said political analyst Biplab Sengupta.
The BJP also failed to carry out a strong election campaign based on issues. The BJP leadership has failed, and abysmally, to highlight the many deficiencies that have started showing up in Mamata Banerjee’s much-touted social welfare schemes like Swasthya Sathi.
Moreover, the BJP’s inexplicable failure to set its house in order by rectifying its past mistakes and holding those responsible for the party’s poor show earlier this year has cost it dear.
Many of the discredited leaders who brought on the party’s defeat through their wrong policies and mistakes haven’t been punished and still call the shots. They were actively involved in the party’s campaign for the by-polls as well.
The sorry defeat of the BJP in the Bengal bypolls is, thus, a well-deserved debacle. The saffron party has inflicted this indignity upon itself, and has only itself to blame for the sorry state it finds itself in.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.
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