According to analysts, the contest in West Bengal will only be between Mamata Bannerjee’s AITC and the BJP in 2019 as Congress and the Left have lost their relevance in the state.
Senior BJP leaders, including its president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have held several rallies in West Bengal over the past couple of months. The party tried and failed to take out a rath yatra and is pushing hard for the controversial bill that seeks to provide citizenship to ‘non-Muslim’ immigrants.
Most recently, PM Modi addressed two back-to-back rallies in the state on Saturday, kick-starting BJP’s campaign for the upcoming polls. But why is the BJP making all these extra efforts in Bengal?
For quite some while now, political analysts have been speculating that BJP might not be able to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha performance in the upcoming polls, mainly on account of a possible poor show in the Hindi-heartland.
The party had swept the heartland in 2014, bagging 192 out of the 226 seats available in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Delhi. It was this region that propelled it to an absolute majority in the Parliament for the first time.
Among these 192 seats, the BJP had won 71 of the 80 seats in UP the last time. But with Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party forming an alliance this time around, the competition is expected to be much tighter.
Similarly, BJP had swept Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand in 2014 but with recent defeats in the first three states, the chances of the replication of previous results look bleak.
Since 2014, BJP has managed to form governments—either on its own or in alliance—in six out of the seven states in the North-East. The BJP has been eyeing the region, which holds 24 seats in total, to make-up for its losses elsewhere.
But that probably won’t be enough and that’s where West Bengal becomes crucial for the party. The state has 42 seats, the third largest share in the parliament after Uttar Pradesh (80) and Maharashtra (48). Amid the Modi wave, BJP had won two seats in the state with a vote share of 17 percent, its highest ever and behind only the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the CPM.
Other than the seats won, BJP had a vote share of over 20 percent in at least 9 constituencies and was at the second spot in three of those.