No succour for the Left in West Bengal or the Congress in Assam
The BJP has wrested Assam from the Congress and opened its account in West Bengal, where the TMC has cemented its domination
Dhruba Basu Delhi
The TMC has planted its feet even more firmly in West Bengal, having increased its tally of Assembly seats from 184 to 211 (a whopping 71.76% of the total of 294) and vote share by about 6%, from 38% in 2011 to 45% this year. There has been a corresponding decline for the Left, with the CPM only winning in 26 constituencies (14 less than 2011) and drawing 19.8% of the votes (about 10% less than 2011), the Forward Bloc managing only 2 seats (9 seats less than last time) and 2.8% of the votes, the Revolutionary Socialist Party with only 3 seats (4 less than 2011), and the CPI staying at 1, losing the seat it had and gaining one that it had lost to the TMC.
The Congress has increased its seat tally infinitesimally, from 42 in 2011 to 44 this time, and its vote share as well, from 9.09% to 12.2%, but the abysmal performance of the Left, perhaps best exemplified by the loss of Surjya Kanta Mishra of the CPM in Narayangarh, to Prodyut Kumar Ghosh of the TMC, for the first time since he began winning from the constituency in 1991, translates to a disastrous outing for the Congress-Left jot. It is suggested that, although CPM voters have transferred their votes to the Congress in constituencies where candidates from the latter were nominated, the reverse has not been the case.
The slight but unignorable rise of the BJP, which has more than doubled its vote share (4% to 10%) and increased its tally from 0 seats in the last elections to 3 this time, suggests that its base in West Bengal is beginning to absorb some of the anti-TMC, anti-Left votes. This may explain the BJP’s victory in Baisnabnagar, which, as part formerly of Kaliachak constituency, has traditionally been dominated by CPM and Congress candidates, in Kharagpur Sadar, which has seen the displacement of its Congress representative, and Madarihat, until this election an RSP bastion where the RSP is now not even the trailing party.
The Left thus continues to be routed, and must look for consolation in the minor details, such as the fact that Mamata Banerjee’s vote share in the prestigious constituency of Bhabanipur in south Kolkata has gone down from 54,213 votes to 25,301. Madan Mitra, Sarada-accused and the first minister to contest from behind bars, has lost from Kamarhati to Manash Mukherjee of the CPM by 4,198 votes. In Behala Paschim, the vote share of the CPM has increased by 24,369 votes while Partha Chatterjee’s has fallen by 25,756 votes. The TMC has lost in Jadavpur, with Sujan Chakraborty of the CPM winning by a margin of nearly 15,000 votes. Siliguri has gone back to the CPM, whose stronghold it was, despite the TMC fielding Baichung Bhutia. Asok Bhattacharya, who has won 4 times from Siliguri in the past, has taken it back.
Ironically, Abdur Razzak Molla, who was expelled from the CPM in 2014 after 37 years of contesting elections under their banner and joined hands with TMC in February this year, has won from Bhangar as a TMC candidate, ousting the CPM, which won there in 2011.
Anti-incumbency has finally come to fore in Assam, and how. After 15 years of Congress rule under Tarun Gogoi, the BJP has taken 60 seats in the state and will form a government there for the first time. Its alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad, which has secured 14 seats, has put together a majority in the 126-member Assembly. The two parties have swept the major constituencies of the state, including Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Dispur, Jalukbari, Guwahati East and Guwahati West, Barpeta, Silchar, and Naharkatia. Almost all of these were held by Congress candidates.
The Congress drew a higher percentage of votes than the BJP (31% and 29.5% respectively), while the AGP’s vote share has declined by 8%, but this is not much to go on for the party that, with good reason, considered Assam its stronghold and yet managed only 26 seats this time around. The AIUDF, under Badruddin Ajmal, until now the chief opposition party to the Congress, with 18 seats, was touted as a potential kingmaker, but will have to settle for less of a role, with no increase in vote share and only 13 seats.
Had Ajmal’s original plan for a Bihar-style coalition with AGP, the Bodoland People’s Front (which retains 12 seats, no difference from the 2011 results) and the Congress worked out, the total tally of 65 would have been just about enough to keep the BJP out. At this point, Gogoi has only himself to blame for not having given due consideration to this option and choosing to go it alone.
The final verdict from the eastern states cannot be misread: the Left is in tatters, the Congress has nothing to be excited about and is a spent force, and the BJP continues to make significant headway while the TMC is going from strength to strength. Disillusionment with the Centre and the Left reigns, even while strong regional parties hold on to their tough.