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Why red turned into Saffron in West Bengal elections


New Delhi, June 08:The Left ruled West Bengal for over three decades and it was only around 2000-05 that anti-CPM sentiments began gaining momentum in the state. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) cashed on this and ousted the CPM government, thus began Mamata Banerjee's rule in West Bengal.

Representational Image

And now, almost 15 years after TMC seized power from the Left, an anti-Trinamool section of voters are growing in Bengal and these voters are not going back to the Left, but turning to the BJP. The vote share trends are a testimony to this. In the Lok Sabha elections, from 33.10 percent vote share in 2009, the Left's vote share fell to 22.14 percent in 2014 and further to 6.28 percent in 2019. The BJP's vote share more than doubled - from 17.02 per cent in 2014 to 40.25 per cent in 2019.

Between 2014 and 2019, both the BJP and the TMC gained from falling vote share of the Left, but the saffron party seems to have gained more. The data clearly shows that the BJP benefited the most from the vaccum created by the decimation of Lef front by Banerjee's TMC.

[Saffron surge in West Bengal: Five seats where BJP made big inroads]

This starling statistic will make it absolutely clear that the BJP gained most from Left's fall. When we compare 2014 and 2019, the BJP's vote share did not decline in any of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal. As a mirror image of BJP's performance, the once formidable Left Front's vote share declined in every parliamentary constituency.

What created the road for the growth of the BJP was repression, which first saw voters switch from Left to TMC, and now when they are seeing it continue in TMC's rule, people are forced to pick only available alternative - the Bharatiya Janata Party.

[What are options before Mamata Banerjee?]

The reason for fall of Left was not just because the people became disenchanated with close to four decades of Left rule, but also because of the Left cadres straying away from the core ideological principles of the front. There was a time when Left and its pro-people and anti-capitalist ideology appealed to people and the leaders also practised the principles preached by Marx-Lenin. People, especially the intellectual ones, truly felt that Left was different from the rest. But when they saw Left leaders indulging in same low-level tactics to remain in power that the other political parties indulge in, the CPM lost the charm of being 'different from the rest', eventually the failth voters had on them eroded.

Factionalism in the once formidable Left Front, and the Congress, also helped the BJP to emerge as an aggressive opposition force in Bengal. For over a decade the CPM has been divided between puritans led by former general secretary Prakash Karat and pragmatists led by Yechury, with the former insisting on no ties with any 'power hungry and materialistic' party, including the Congress, and the latter advocating electoral understanding with all secular forces to stop the BJP juggernaut.

[Amid saffron surge, BJP casts shadow on Mamata govt's stability]

Now, BJP is in second spot and it has edged past the Congress and the Left Front. From a high of 43 MPs in the Lok Sabha in 2004, the CPM has been reduced to a three-member party in the 17th Lok Sabha.

With the BJP making massive strides, all eyes are now on West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021.

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