Take a look at the figures below. They are available in the public domain, and clearly show how the voting percentage of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has steadily increased in West Bengal within a couple of years.
It has been a matter of intense debate over the past few years as to what exactly is leading to the BJP’s rise in the state: is it the Narendra Modi factor, the steady decline in the CPM’s support base, or a growing anti-incumbency factor against the Mamata Banerjee government?
An argument the CPM has taken resort to most in recent times has been a so-called alliance between Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the BJP. The CPM has consistently argued that the Trinamool has contributed to the BJP’s growth in Bengal. The CPM leadership – as part of its definitive stance, and a strategy to inspire their workers and supporters at various levels – insists that such an underhand alliance exists.
Yet, the facts on the ground indicate that the voters of the Left parties are steadily gravitating towards the BJP. How? Let’s look at some figures here. In the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha constituency, the BJP came second in the 2016 byelection – an improvement from its third position in 2014. There was a huge increase in votes. While this happened, the Trinamool Congress’ votes too increased, but the Forward Bloc’s votes came down sharply. This clearly indicates that how the Forward Bloc’s loss was primarily the BJP’s gain.
There can now be seen a clear pattern in how anti-Trinamool Congress votes have gone to the BJP, and it has gone from the Left parties. Kathi Dakshin (Contai South), Uluberia and Cooch Behar byelection results were so poor for the Left that their even the security deposit was forfeited.
In Uluberia, the second and third positions changed between 2014 and 2018 byelections, with Trinamool Congress and BJP gaining votes while the CPM lost votes.
In case of Tamluk Lok Sabha seat, while the first, second and third positions remained unchanged in 2017 byelections from the earlier 2014 polls, votes in favour of the Trinamool Congress and BJP increased, while the number reduced for the CPM.
The same trend can be noticed in the Noapara and Kanthi Dakshin Assembly seats – if the 2016 elections and subsequent byelections in 2017 and 2018 are compared. While the Trinamool Congress has emerged all-powerful (much of the terror, dominance and bloodshed in large parts of the state come from this), the Left is steadily losing the plot.
Under the current backdrop, photographs of alliance between the BJP and the CPM at the grassroots level for the upcoming panchayat elections has emerged. At the grassroots level, party workers say this has been a compulsion to fight Trinamool Congress terror.
Funnily enough, the CPM leadership, instead of taking action against those who have worked out this alliance, has totally denied this happened. Party secretary Sitaram Yechury on May 8 tweeted: “Motivated rumours, canards and lies are being spread by TMC which has a deal with BJP on communal polarisation and on saving its corrupt. Biman Bose has denied any understanding with the BJP and we stand firm in our opposition to both TMC and BJP.” The West Bengal CPM secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra made the same argument.
For most CPM cadres who work at the grassroots level, a strict tutelage under the party leadership has always projected Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress as their main rival. And for most CPM supporters, Banerjee, her party and its policies are untouchables. This hatred is so deep-seated and ingrained in the Communists that at the grassroots level, they would much rather go for BJP than join hands with the Trinamool.
The party leadership understands this, and for a regimented party like the CPM, moving away from this very important stand in West Bengal, is unthinkable.
Mamata Banerjee on the other hand, has been less and less harsh on the Left. This has been easier for her as she began to gain more power and control and the Left became less of a threat for her. It was said that such was her hatred for the colour red, she would not even touch laal-cha (tea without milk) because of the red tinge and the use of the word red (laal) in it. But recently, she said in the West Bengal Assembly, that she would have been happy if the Left had won in Tripura, implying she would do so in order to keep the BJP away.
As far as the Trinamool Congress and the Left parties are concerned, their policies and their brand of politics may be poles apart and never the twain shall meet. And therefore when it comes to gauging how their support base in West Bengal increased so rapidly, the BJP knows it must thank the CPM’s policies towards the Trinamool Congress the most.
Comparative results of 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 Assembly elections and subsequent byelections in those seats:
Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat
TMC Partha Pratim Roy: 7,94,375
BJP Hem Chandra Barman: 3,81,134
FB Nripendra Nath Roy: third 87,363
2014 Lok Sabha polls:
TMC Renuka Sinha: 5,26,499
FB Dipak Kumar Roy: 4,39,392
BJP Hem Chandra Barman: 2,17,653
Tamluk Lok Sabha seat
TMC Dibyendu Adhikary: 7,79,594
CPM Mandira Panda: 2,82,066
BJP Ambujaksha Mahanti: 1,96,450
2014 Lok Sabha polls:
TMC Subhendu Adhikary: 7,16,928
CPM Sekh Ibrahim Ali: 4,70,447
BJP Badsha Alam: 86,265
Uluberia Lok Sabha seat:
TMC Sajda Ahmed: 7,67,556
BJP Anupam Mullick: 2,93,046
CPM Sabiruddin Molla: 1,38,892
2014 Lok Sabha polls:
TMC Sultan Ahmed: 5,70,785
CPM Sabir Uddin Molla: 3,69,563
BJP Ranjit Kishore Mohanty: 1,37,137
Noapara Assembly seat
TMC Sunil Singh: 1,01, 729
BJP Sandip Chatterjee: 38,711
CPM Gargi Chatterjee: 35,497
2016 Assembly election
INC Madhusudan Bose: 79,548 (there was an alliance between the Left and the Congress)
TMC Manju Basu: 78453
BJP Amiya Sarkar: 23,579
Kanthi Dakshin (Contai South) Assembly constituency
TMC Chandrima Bhattacharya: 95,369
BJP Sourindra Mohan Jana: 52,843
Uttam Pradhan CPI: 17,423
2016 Assembly polls
TMC Dibyandu Adhikary: 93,359
CPI Uttam Pradhan: 59,649
BJP Kamalesh Mishra: 15,223
[The views expressed belong solely to the author, and may not reflect the opinions of the editorial team]