Nitish Kumar took oath as Chief Minister of Bihar for the seventh time last week. In a nail-biting finish, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal United managed to ward off the threat from young Tejashwi Yadav-led Majagathbandhan (MGB) and retained power.
The National Democratic Alliance’s victory in Bihar could have significant implications for the Assembly elections in West Bengal slated to be held early next year.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is facing a serious threat of being dislodged by a resurgent BJP in the state in 2021. Mamata’s citadel was breached and serious dents were made to it in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by the BJP.
The BJP, while winning 18 seats, bagged a vote share of 40%+, just 3% less than the Trinamool Congress. It emerged as the clear runner-up, relegating the Congress to the third position and sending a clear signal that the BJP has arrived in the state.
The Communist Party of India (M), which had ruled the state for 34 years successively, could not even open its account.
2019 Lok Sabha Tally of Parties
There are many reasons why Mamata needs to worry about whether she will retain power or be defeated.
1. Anti-incumbency era
We have entered an era of the anti-incumbency vote, as per my research. Only 9 governments (out of the 36 Assembly elections) have returned to power since the 2014 general elections. People have become very unforgiving.
Ten years is a long enough time to be in power. A natural anti-incumbency, along with voter fatigue, creeps in. Very few chief ministers enjoy power for 10 years and go on to win a third successive term.
Big leaders like Digvijaya Singh (Madhya Pradesh), Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana) lost while seeking votes for a third time.
2. Modi’s popularity intact
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is still intact despite the COVID-19 shock and the resultant economic hardships faced by people. It worked in Bihar where Modi charisma pulled the NDA away from the brink of loss to victory.
People, who were dissatisfied with the Nitish Kumar government’s work but were satisfied with the Modi government, voted in large numbers for the NDA.
3. Lack of a tall state leader compensated by Modi
The strong point in favour of Mamata Banerjee is the lack of leadership in the state BJP. There is no leader worth his salt in the BJP who can match Didi’s charisma and statewide appeal.
However, we have seen in past elections that this doesn’t hinder the BJP’s prospects, especially when it is in the opposition. The leadership factor is compensated for by Modi, as the BJP is likely to make it a Modi versus Mamata battle.
We have seen this in election after election in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana (2014), and Uttar Pradesh (2017).
4. Double-engine ki sarkar
The BJP will position Prime Minister Modi as the harbinger of change and development. It will push its patent double-engine theory of growth. It will promise the people of the state that Modi will make a responsible person the state chief minister.
The chief minister will work directly under the supervision/guardianship of the Prime Minister’s Office and implement his agenda.
After COVID-19, the dependence of people on the state has increased. Mamata’s regular confrontation with the Centre could impact the assistance received from the central government.
Some schemes, primarily the PM Kisan Nidhi, are not operational in the state as it has not provided the Centre with the names of farmers.
This could deter many voters from bringing back the TMC government.
5. Polarization helps the BJP
In Bihar, the NDA swept the Phase-3 polls after trailing MGB till Phase-2. It performed very well in the minority dominated 30 seats in the Seemanchal region, winning 18 of the 30 seats.
It effectively used the polarisation strategy to counter the consolidation of Muslim votes in favour of MGB in Bihar.
The BJP has been successful, to a large extent, in painting the TMC with the same brush: that it indulges in minority appeasement politics, as it has done with the Congress.
This has provided a breeding ground for the BJP’s Hindutva kind of politics. Mamata has been winning by consolidating minority votes and splitting the Hindu votes basis class and caste in the state.
The BJP has managed to convert a class-based election into a religion and caste-based one (like in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections).
As per a Yale university study, polarization helps the BJP. The once-secular state of West Bengal has become highly communal and the BJP is not to blame entirely.
Mamata’s decision of giving cash doles to imams, banning Durga puja processions to facilitate Muharram and the protest against CAA/NRC has angered a large section of the Hindu community.
The Muslim vote is likely to be split. The Congress traditionally has had a good support base amongst the minority community, especially in the Murshidabad region.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, who played spoilsport for the RJD in Bihar, too, could wean away a section of minority votes, especially the youth, from Mamata.
To sum up, through Hindu awakening the BJP managed to unsettle Mamata in her fortress in 2019. With a victory under its belt and the confidence of its workers and state leaders very high, the BJP is raring to topple Didi in 2021.
This article was originally published here.
Image Credit: Yahoo News India