New Delhi (Agency): The victory of the Trinamool Congress candidate Prof. Nirmal Chandra Roy at the Dhupguri assembly constituency by poll in Bengal by defeating the BJP candidate Smt. Tapashi Roy by around 4,000 votes, vindicates TMC supremo Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the TMC is the main INDIA alliance party in Bengal and TMC will be deciding the seat sharing formula for 2024 Lok Sabha elections as the prime anti-BJP party in the state.
The by election was held on September 5 along with six other constituencies in other states, following the death of the BJP MLA Bishnupada Roy who won the seat in 2021 assembly polls. He won the seat by around 4, 000 votes defeating the TMC candidate. Dhupguri belongs to the Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal which is the bastion of BJP. In both 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2021 assembly polls, the BJP did exceedingly well in this district as also in the region as a whole
For BJP, the by poll was the last testing ground before the coming Lok Sabha elections. The party gave nomination to the wife of Pulwama attack martyr who belonged to that area, to get sympathy votes. Apart, the entire BJP state leadership was involved in campaigning in the last two weeks. But still, the BJP lost the seat sending signals that the BJP’s support base in its so called bastion is eroding fast and in the next seven months, TMC will cover up the gap more making it difficult for the BJP to retain even one third of the existing Lok Sabha seats from North Bengal.
As regards, the two India constituents CPI(M) and the Congress which fought in alliance against both the BJP and the TMC, the political scenario is far grimmer. The CPI(M) candidate Ishwar Chandra Roy lost his deposit by just getting 6.52 per cent of the votes as against 46 per cent by the TMC winning candidate and 44 per cent by the defeated BJP candidate. What is pathetic for the CPI(M) is that its nominee’s total left plus Congress votes were around 12 per cent in the panchayat elections in Dhupguri just two months ago on July 8 this year. This means that instead of increasing, the votes of Left-Congress alliance nosedived to about half of the votes received by the combine in the panchayat polls.
What do all these signify for the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April/May 2024. At the last meeting of the opposition parties in Mumbai on August 31 and September 1, the joint statement mentioned of the resolve of the INDIA constituents to work on one on one formula as far as possible. It is now decided that the talks will start at the state level and the INDIA alliance high command will be involved only when the state leaders of the constituent parties fail to arrive at an understanding on the seat sharing.
Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats, presently 23 belonging to the TMC, 17 to the BJP and only two to the Congress. The Left Front got no seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. After that in the Asansol Lok Sabha by poll following the resignation of the member Babul Supriya from BJP, the CPI(M ) candidate lost heavily against the TMC candidate SatrughnaSinha.BJP candidate stood second. Since then, there has been no by election in Bengal in any Lok Sabha constituency.
In 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP got its highest vote share ever in Bengal at 40.32 per cent. But in July 2023, eight months before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP vote share in rural polls went down to 22.88 per cent, as against 51.2 per cent of the Trinamool Congress. There has been a steep decline down the line, covering all strongholds till 2021 assembly polls, including the constituency of three BJP central ministers. This development has ominous signal for the BJP’s performance in 2024 polls. Dhupguri by poll result has only confirmed the trend.
Taking the coming battle for Lok Sabha elections in view, the results of the rural polls as also Dhupguri by poll are nothing but disaster for the BJP. Home Minister Amit Shah held a top-level meeting in Kolkata two months back with the senior leaders and set a target of 35 seats as against the present 17. Nobody believed in the 35 seats possibility, but serious discussions took place about maintaining the present figure 17. Then, at the level of the central leaders, the target came down to 12 as they took into account the organisational capacity of the state BJP at the booth level. Now, sources say, that the final tally of BJP may not cross six in 2024 polls if there is no massive resurgence in BJP preparations.
Now, both the state BJP and the central leadership have started reviewing the results and it is found that there is not a single safe seat for the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls in Bengal. All the 17 seats are within winning distance of the Trinamool Congress. The BJP could not mobilise cadres in all the booths in the panchayat polls despite tall assurances given to the Home Minister. The reason was not TMC terror, but the absence of the requisite number of party workers.
As regards the CPI(M) and the Congress, there was some improvement in their vote share in July polls.. In 2023 rural polls, the Left Front, mainly the CPI(M), got 13.69 per cent votes and the Congress got 6.42 per cent. So together, the Left-Congress combine got 20.11 per cent. This was much better compared to the vote share figure of the CPI(M) at 4.71per cent and the Congress at 3.03 per cent in the 2021 assembly polls. That way, the CPI(M) vote share increased by 8 per cent as a whole in the panchayat areas of the state. . But within two months, Dhupguri by poll brought the total figure down to 6.52 per cent
In the backdrop of the panchayat elections on July8 and Dhupguri by poll early this week, TMC is advantageously placed in INDIA Alliance and set to dictate terms once seat sharing talks take place. There are seven political parties, partners of INDIA alliance are involved in Lok Sabha polls. They are TMC, Congress, CPI(M0, CPI, Forward Bloc, RSP and the CPI(ML) Liberation The Left Front in Bengal led by the CPI(M) has got three other partners CPI, FB and RSP. These four parties of the LF generally abide by the CPI(M) diktat. The CPI(M) is opposed to any alliance with the TMC in Bengal for the Lok Sabha elections even if the Congress changes its present position later.
Indications suggest that the high level coordination committee of the INDIA alliance may meet in New Delhi at Sharad Pawar’s house on September 13 to take forward the issues of seat sharing talks and joint campaign. TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee is a member of this coordination committee. He may suggest the constituent parties in Bengal should immediately initiate the process of discussion. Mamata will be out of the country from September 12 to 19. Sources say that Mamata wants the Congress to make the party’s position clear on the issue of alliance in Bengal by this month end. The Congress high command has made some preliminary assessment on the Party’s position on alliance with TMC. The draft will be given to Rahul Gandhi after he is back from Europe next week. Things will move fast in Bengal politics after Mamata is back from her tour abroad. For the moment, it is advantage Mamata, Congress is in middle position while the CPI(M) is in back foot. (IPA Service)
By Satyaki Chakraborty