Updated June 6th, 2024 at 08:43 IST

Bengal Debacle: Trapped by Narrative, Leadership Crisis, BJP Loses Ground | 5 Points

BJP's Lok Sabha election performance in West Bengal brought massive disappointment in the party's leadership and ground forces.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Bengal Debacle: Trapped by Narrative, Leadership Crisis, BJP Loses Ground | 5 Points | Image:PTI/File
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Kolkata: The BJP's Lok Sabha election performance in West Bengal has just brought disappointment in the party's leadership and ground forces. The saffron party's big setback in the state came as a result of its failure to counter the TMC's narrative on central funds, reliance on central leadership, criticism over anti-Muslim rhetoric, and the CAA

The substantial shift of electoral support towards TMC cost BJP decades of their hard work at the grassroots in the state to wrest power from the ruling party. 

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The TMC, led by the formidable Mamata Banerjee, secured a resounding victory, clinching 29 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state, going against the exit poll results that predicted a massive loss for the ruling party and huge gains for the BJP

However, it was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that found itself at the centre of attention, grappling with a crushing defeat after being down to 12 from 18 seats it had won in 2019, and a multitude of questions surrounding its campaign strategy, organizational dynamics, and narrative framework.

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For the BJP, many factors did not work in their favour, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the charge with around 19 rallies in the state.

Political analysts and party insiders scrutinized the BJP's decline, highlighting its failure to counter Mamata Banerjee's narrative regarding denied funds to Bengal.

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Banerjee's adept construction of a narrative portraying herself as a defender of Bengal's interests, despite corruption charges, resonated with voters, leaving the BJP grappling with an ineffective response.

“The withholding of central funds cost us dearly as the TMC propagated that we are denying the MGNREGA beneficiaries. We failed to counter it,” a senior state BJP leader said.

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Local issues like the cancellation of school jobs significantly reshaped election dynamics as the BJP's propagation of corruption allegations failed to resonate with voters, while the CAA, intended as a BJP electoral strategy, unexpectedly prompted minorities previously undecided between the TMC and the Left-Congress alliance to consolidate behind the TMC.

Political observers note that the BJP in West Bengal had set an ambitious goal of securing 35 Lok Sabha seats, banking on the implementation of the CAA as a potential game-changer and leveraging Hindu polarisation, which fell flat on their face.

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Despite their fervent efforts, they failed to gain substantial ground.

"Internal divisions, organisational weaknesses, and the impact of the Left-Congress alliance all contributed to the BJP's difficulties in garnering anti-TMC votes," political analyst Maidul Islam said.

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Echoing similar sentiments, political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said the consolidation of the Muslim votes behind the TMC and the Left-Congress alliance proved to be BJP’s Achilles heels.

“The BJP hoped that the Left-Congress alliance would split the minority votes, it did happen in some seats in North Bengal – Balurghat and Raiganj helping the BJP to win. But in South Bengal, the minorities stood like a rock behind the TMC. Additionally, the split of anti-TMC votes also dented BJP chances,” he said.

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Ironically, in 2019 it was the shift of the Left and the Congress votes to the BJP, that led to its meteoric rise in the state.

The Trinamool Congress registered a 45.77 per cent vote share in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, up by more than two per cent from the 43.7 per cent of votes it received in 2019.

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The BJP, on the other hand, registered a vote share of 38.73 per cent in the state this time around which, also unlike what the pollsters had predicted, was down by over two per cent compared to the 40.6 per cent votes it received five years ago.

Dependence on Central Leadership: A Major Drawback

Senior state BJP leaders, who did not wish to be named, said the party's over-dependence on central leadership, notably Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, proved to be a notable drawback, alienating a section of Bengal's electorate “due to the perception of outsider dominance and the absence of credible local leadership, thereby exacerbating the disconnect between the party and the people.” “The heavy dependence on Hindutva and a campaign centred on “Modi ki guarantee” exacerbated its electoral challenges, as it failed to connect with Bengal's diverse electorate who prioritized local issues and governance over the Ram Mandir construction,” said another state BJP leader.

Following the electoral setback, the BJP is navigating a pivotal moment marked by a crisis of confidence and a pressing need for introspection, as the party contemplates the lessons gleaned from its defeat while simultaneously grappling with internal discord, exemplified by allegations of conspiracy levelled by the former state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, casting uncertainty on the path forward.

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“A conspiracy was hatched to ensure that I am defeated. The party needs to introspect and find out why BJP failed to retain the seats and vote share it had won in 2019. There is a need for serious introspection,” he said.

BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar, however, said the party would introspect the reasons behind the defeat and “will fix the gaps.” Internal challenges also plagued the BJP, including dissatisfaction among cadres over ticket distribution, leading to possible losses in Junglemahal and North Bengal, where the party is set to lose four seats. Both regions had rewarded the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls.

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Biswanath Chakraborty said the lack of a "Modi wave" and the BJP's organisational weaknesses were critical factors in its poor performance.

(With agency inputs…)

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Published June 6th, 2024 at 08:43 IST