It seems that PM Narendra Modi had already started preparing for the Bengal elections long ago as he visited Kolkata on the occasion of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s 125th anniversary in January. While he also dressed in a certain way where critics say that he impersonated Rabindranath Tagore. Despite there being elections in 4 states and 1 union territory, BJP seemed to have poured its maximum energy into the Bengal elections.
Some of BJP’s tactics:
Home Minister Amit Shas’s lunch: Mr. Amit Shah had lunch at one of his Adivasi party workers. It was seemed to be a move for tribal votes’ appeasement. He also had lunch at a farmer’s house and this one assumed significance in the wake of the ongoing farmers’ protest in Delhi. This was largely covered by media houses.
Anti-Incumbency centric campaign: The saffron party allured Bengalis for a change, while the PM quoted “Asol Parivartan” (real change). Bengal was ruled by the left (communist) parties for 34 years, succeeded by TMC for 10 years. In the 2016 assembly election, BPJ had won only 3 seats, so Bengalis and never tasted BJP’s governance, and hence creating excitement for a change (Parivartan) was BJP’s prime motive. Leader J P Nadda seemed to have been assigned with this task.
Modi brand and the 8 phase election: BJP demanded an unprecedented 8 phase election and the election commission of Indian, surprisingly, too agreed to it. Conducting elections in 8 phases gives more time for campaigning and Mr. Modi himself seemed to have vigorously campaigned in each phase. The Modi brand was effectively used. Also, BJP did not announce its CM candidate’s name. Suvendu Adhikari’s name was anticipated. But if the CM candidate’s name would have been announced, at the face value, it would have been Suvendu v/s Mamata but BPJ wanted to keep it Modi v/s Mamata, as Modi is a bigger brand.
Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh: The Prime Minister went to Bangladesh at the invitation of PM Sheikh Hasina. There, he visited the Matua Mahasangha temple. This place is the hometown of Matua Mahasangha. Many Matuas have migrates to India in 1947 and also in 1971 and have settled in a large population in Bengal.
The defection of TMC leaders: Many leaders, including TMC minister Suvendhu Adhikari, had abandoned their party and joined BJP. BJP exhorted that there is a split and desertion of leaders in TMC and portrayed that Mamata’s days are over. Also, their slogans “Do Mai, didi gai” (Didi will go on 2 May) as the election results were to be announced on 2 May. They ran large social media campaigns with top trends- #EbaarBJP (this time it is BJP), #Ebaar200paar (this time we will cross 200 seats). Last time it was TMC that had crossed 200 (out of 294 seats).
Visit of Union Ministers and other Leaders. Many leaders like Smriti Irani, Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar, UP CM Yogi Adityanath had joined the campaign. They talked on issues related to Hinduism. Besides, they had emphasized and reminded that Mamata had banned Durga pooja in Bengal. This was no surprise as the saffron party uses Hindutva as its principal agenda in every election.
Also, Mithun Chakraborty joined had joined the campaign as the celebrity face for BJP.
Despite pouring all their resources, energy, and time into Bengal, why did BJP end up winning only 77 out of 292 seats? Mamata too gave befitting replies to each of BJP’s tactics.
Daughter of Bengal v/s the Outsiders: While BJP was stressing on anti-incumbency, to ouster Mamata and bring change; Mamata publicized herself as Bengal’s daughter and that Bengalis have to fight out the outsiders. Mamata fielded many popular Bengali singers and actors who took to the street to highlight that how the Baahaaris (outsiders) are destroying Bengal’s culture and communal inclusiveness. CM Mamata had earlier funded many female-centric schemes like Sabooj Sathi- bicycles for girls and education loans.
Muslim appeasement: While the saffron party goes ahead with its Hindutva narrative, Mamata turns up to be ultra-secular. During her tenure as the CM, she had introduced schemes like scholarships for Muslim students from classes 1 to 10, reservations for Muslim OBCs, etc. The Muslim population has a significant 28-30% vote share in the state. This time, she seemed to have an emerging threat from AIMIM’s Owaisi and also the head of one of the biggest shrines walking into the Indian Secular Front party. Despite this, almost all the Muslim-dominated constituencies had voted in favor of TMC.
SC/ST vote share. Amit Shah’s lunch tactic did not seem to have worked well as, in more than 50% SC/ST dominated constituencies, TMC candidates had won.
Broken leg- The Masterstroke: Mamata Banerjee had reported that while she visited Nandigram for the campaign, she was attacked and suffered a serious leg injury. However, out of hundreds of cameras focused on her, not one captured the alleged incident, making BJP immediately respond that she was bluffing. Mamata also responded to this by posting a picture of her lying on a hospital bed. Later she campaigned on a wheelchair with her leg wrapped with bandages. Evidently, she gained a lot of sympathy because of this.
Some of her party workers were disappointed with her nephew Abhishek Banerjee and political analyst Prashant Kishor controlling the entire campaign. Prashant Kishore had earlier helped Mr. Modi with his election strategy in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and is popularly known as an election magician. This time, he helped TMC and announced that he would quit politics if BJP crosses 100 seats.
While BJP was very confident and chanted ‘Ebaar 200 paar’, little did we know that they were actually talking about TMC! On 2nd May, as the results were announced, TMC had won the mandate with startling 213 seats out of 292. On one hand, BJP with PM, HM, CM Yogi, Mithun, and many other union leaders, Mamata seemed to have fought vigilantly and has shown everyone that the Modi brand can be defeated and is now being considered as the face of UPA in 2024 Lok Sabha elections by many.