Politics News

Is The Jolt to BJP in Kolkata Civic Poll Results from Its Own Making?

“Congratulations to CEO West Bengal Sourav Das for making Royal Nephew of Bengal’s prediction come true. Important steps were taken by you such as EVM without VVPAT, CCTV without connection and, last but not the least, allowing at the atmosphere of fear to prevail with Kolkata Police’s help,” read an overtly sarcastic tweet by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, minutes after the final results of the Kolkata civic body polls were confirmed by the West Bengal State Election Commission.

The Trinamool Congress had drubbed the opposition by bagging 134 out of the 144 wards in Kolkata amassing 72.16 percent of votes polled, leaving the BJP with just three and the Left and Congress with two seats each.

“Also congratulations in advance for the Banga Bibhushan award that you would receive for all the hard work,” Adhikari’s sarcasm on his verified Twitter handle continued.

The results showed that the BJP was down from its previous civic poll tally by four seats. Even worse for the party, the Left Front managed to garner 11.89 percent of the votes polled, a good 2.6 percent higher than the primary opposition party of the state which managed just 9.21 percent votes. Individually, the CPI-M had a higher vote share compared to the BJP.

While the Left retained the second position in 65 seats, the BJP could claim the same credit in only 47.

A cursory glance at the state elections which took place seven months ago, and the erosion in BJP’s urban vote bank looks even more startling. Comparative figures show that the BJP has lost around 20 per cent vote in the meantime.

Also in this duration, the Trinamool Congress turned around at least nine wards in its favour in which the BJP had led during the state elections.

The Trinamool, ironically, led in seven of the 10 wards in May this year which it lost in these civic polls. But the BJP has managed to en-cash only one of those seats where the Trinamool slipped.

So, was Suvendu Adhikari being a sore loser? Or, was he merely licking wounds and diverting attention away from the mistakes the party may have made while planning its poll strategies? Also, could he be stating facts?

As always the truth, I suspect, lies in between. And the further the BJP tries to blame the state Election Commission and the police for its poll debacle, the deeper would the ostrich be burying its head in sand.

For one, the BJP seemed to have paid more attention to channelling its energy to try and stop the polls from happening in the first place than putting up a political battle against the Trinamool. The kind of focus the party maintained in the legal corridors of Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court was clearly missing in its campaigns. Why else would the party fail to bring most of its out-of-state listed star campaigners and rely on a schedule which looked more haphazard than organized and agenda-driven?

The strategy may have hogged more media spotlight for the party during its court battles, but it clearly failed to impress voters. A section of them clearly found more substance in the efforts of the Left which has been struggling for political space in the state for quite some time now.

The poll manifesto released by the BJP had met with a few raised eyebrows from within the party itself who branded the exercise as having been done in a “reluctant manner”. Some of these leaders, on conditions on anonymity, told this correspondent that little effort was put into reaching out to voters with this vision document or through personalized letters which the party had initially planned.

The alleged violence and electoral malpractices notwithstanding, the results leave room for introspection within the party… irrespective of the arguments and their outcome when the BJP presents the “incriminating evidence” it possesses, as claimed by Adhikari, in court on 23 December.

It bears recall that in the neighbouring BJP-ruled state of Tripura, the Agartala municipal body was left opposition-less, in an election held barely a fortnight ago. No booth in those polls had CCTV cover and no VVPAT machine was attached to EVMs. The Left and Trinamool opposition had cried hoarsely of large-scale violence, voter intimidation and rampant poll rigging.

Adhikari, interestingly, was among the first leaders from Bengal to congratulate the Biplab Deb-led party for its achievement.

A good two hours before Adhikari’s tweet on Tuesday, Trinamool All India General Secretary, Abhishek Banerjee, had posted the following on his verified Twitter timeline in keeping with the poll result trends which were already evident then: “People of Kolkata have once again proven that politics of HATE & VIOLENCE have NO PLACE in BENGAL! I thank everyone for blessing us with such a huge mandate. We are truly humbled and shall always remain committed to our goals towards YOUR BETTERMENT. Thank you, Kolkata.”

Adhikari, befitting his stature, had an opportunity to politically counter that statement which he threw away.

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