NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janata Party leaders from Bengal say that their poor show in the recently held byelections in the state was because of the adverse buzz over National Register of Citizens (NRC) and overconfidence of some state leaders.
The BJP lost all three Assembly seats from Bengal that went to the bypolls, while the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) won the three. The BJP even lost its sitting seat of Kharagpur Sadar to the TMC. Kharagpur was considered to be a stronghold of the BJP.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh was the MLA from Kharagpur Sadar. He vacated the Assembly seat after he won the Lok Sabha seat of Kharagpur earlier this year.
Many believe that the loss is a personal setback for the state president as the BJP was confident of at least winning this Assembly seat out of the three.
BJP candidates from the two Assembly seats also agreed to the fact that the “scare” over NRC cost the BJP this round of byelections.
Kamal Chandra Sarkar, BJP candidate from Kaliaganj, said, “It is indeed the scare over NRC which harmed the party in this election. The party failed to communicate to the voters effectively the issue of NRC.”
Another BJP state functionary from Bengal told this correspondent, “There has been fear mongering over NRC among the people of Bengal. The TMC was aggressively campaigning against the NRC and our leaders failed to counter this effectively. And this was not only with the Muslims, even Hindu immigrants were also being scared.”
“For example, the TMC has been going to the homes of the minority community and telling them that they will soon be deported to Bangladesh or put in detention camps as soon as NRC is implemented in the state. Not only this, they are also going to the Hindu community and mostly those who have migrated from Bangladesh to India during the 1971 war or after that, and are telling them that if they do not have the slips of their refugee camps, they will be put in detention camps. There was no effective campaign by the BJP to counter this. They were just engaging in rhetoric,” the BJP functionary said.
Bengal has a huge population of immigrants from Bangladesh given its proximity to the Bengali-speaking country. Among the major Hindu community that migrated to Bengal from Bangladesh is the Matua community and, according to Bengali sociologists, most of the people living in the border districts, irrespective of religion, are immigrants from Bangladesh.
A political commentator on Bengal politics said that the BJP would not win in Bengal if they did not take the minorities with it.
“In Bengal, there are around 120 seats where minorities can influence the way the vote would swing and if the BJP thinks the party can win without minority support, they should stop thinking of coming to power in Bengal. The NRC has united Muslims and immigrant Hindus in Bengal; these election results clearly show that trend and the minorities voted en-masse against the BJP. Some people from the minority community who voted for the BJP last time have also shifted to the TMC,” the political commentator said.
Another BJP leader from Bengal, who did not wish to be named, said that not only NRC, also the “attitude of the BJP leaders” proved to be fatal for the party.
“The party had become overconfident in Bengal after winning 18 seats from the state in the Lok Sabha elections. The MPs from most of the places were not keeping in regular touch with the people, while Mamata Banerjee had launched a massive public outreach programme under the name of ‘Didi ke Bolo’. Some senior state leaders thought that the BJP had become an invincible force. Callous and irresponsible statements were being made during the election campaign. This did not go down well with the people,” the BJP leader said.
The vote share of the BJP in Bengal has slightly declined compared to the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, which managed to secure about 41% vote share in the Lok Sabha elections from Bengal, secured about 39% in the bypolls concluded earlier this week and this change has come within just six months.
The TMC camp in Bengal has also been bolstered by this result as many in the TMC are jubilant of the fact that the party this time around won on two seats in which the party in its history of 30 years has never won.
The TMC, for the first time, won from the Kaliaganj Assembly seat and also the Kharagpur seat which has a significant presence of non-Bengali population.