The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) has won four out of the seven municipalities, three in the plains and one in the notified hill area of West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has emerged victorious despite the recent push by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, who visited the state to rejuvenate party cadre before polls. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a constituent of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituent, has maintained its dominance over the hills. It did face a setback though in Mirmik. The Congress and Left, however, have been decimated further, of whatever was left of them in the state.
ied hill area, TMC has made inroads by bagging Mirkik. The TMC also managed to win in six wards in other three hilly regions of Drajeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.
Factionalism, infighting, splits and charges of corruption against top leadership of GJM has marred its prospects. Harka Bahadur Chhetri formed his own party, the Jan Andolan Party (JAP), which opened its account in the West Bengal municipal election. The Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF), a key torch bearer of separate statehood formed an alliance with TMC.
The demand for a separate state started as a social movement, however, soon, it turned into a political party. This is the root cause of all GJM problems. A political party is different from a social movement. Social movements are run with the support of voluntary contributions from the public. In contrast, a political party needs money in large sums to contest elections, pay its cadre and leaders for rallies and events, and so on.
GJM will soon be under pressure from the public as to the steps taken by the NDA government at the centre on the issue of separate statehood. Now GJM can’t blame Congress and it can’t abdicate its responsibility either. Mamata, riding on Mirkik victory, would lure other areas promising development and further weakening this movement, or convince people to drop the demand for separate statehood.
II. TMC trumps Congress-Left alliance in its strongholds
The most impressive victory of TMC has been in Domkal and Raiganj municipalities. Both these assembly seats were won by the jote (alliance) of Left and Congress just a year ago in the West Bengal Assembly polls. While CPM had won Domkal by 6,890 votes, Congress had won the Raiganj seat by a massive 51,247 votes.
TMC has won 18 of the 21 wards in Domkal and 24 of the 27 wards in Raiganj. In Raiganj, TMC had bagged only 25 percent vote share despite Mamata sweeping the state Assembly elections. This translates to seven seats for TMC in civic polls (as per the leads made in the Assembly elections). The wins in municipality elections imply a gain of 17 seats for TMC (as compared to leads in assembly elections).
In Domkal, TMC had recorded only 33.3 percent vote share during the Assembly elections, thus implying that it had lead in seven wards. In the municipal elections, TMC gained 11 wards.
On an aggregate, therefore, TMC has gained 28 wards in these two municipalities’ compared to leads made during the state Assembly elections.”
III Non-Hindi speaking states continue to be a weak point for BJP
The results of West Bengal municipal elections highlight continued weak performance of BJP in non-Hindi speaking states. People voted for Maa Maati Maanush vs Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.
In the nine Hindi speaking states in India (greater than 50 percent population), BJP has formed a government in six states. Of the 14 states, where Hindi speaking population is less than five percent, BJP has formed a government in only two states (Manipur and Gujarat). In eight states where the Hindi-speaking population is greater than five percent, BJP has formed a government in just four states.
The only silver lining for BJP is that West Bengal falls in the category of states with more than 5 percent Hindi speaking population. The leaders who can speak chaste Bengali come from the grass roots. They are required to pitch for the hot seat in 2021. A catchy Bengali slogan is likely to be more impactful in countering the 3M formula of TMC.
IV. Results resonate BJP’s “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” cholbe na in West Bengal
To conclude, the results have national ramifications. Mamata emerges as a giant killer capable of deflating BJP’s torpedo along with Nitish Kumar and Arvind Kejriwal. This will boost her confidence, and she will clamour for a larger role in any anti-BJP front which shapes up in future. The people of West Bengal may also want didi to become the prime ministerial candidate of a united opposition.
While it’s only civic elections, the way BJP marketed every cvici election win ensures Mamata’s win can’t be belittled either. BJP will have to slog very hard to dislodge Mamata in 2021. The Modi-Shah jadoo won’t work until the local leadership is nourished well. The Left is witnessing a big decline in its fortunes. And TMC is now the new Left in many ways in West Bengal. A food for thought for Congress: it’s time to swap allies, dump Left and embrace Mamata.
Amitabh Tiwari is a corporate and investment banker turned political commentator, strategist and consultant. Views are personal. He can be reached @politicalbaaba