The verdict is out and Prime Minister Modi led BJP is set to form the government with a thumping single-party majority. BJP managed to bag a whopping 303 seats all on its own, making the need for alliances redundant. This brute majority sees BJP better its 2014 score and a major role in this thumping victory has been played by West Bengal which is currently ruled by TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha constituencies. Of those, TMC managed to bag 22 seats while BJP won 18 and Congress managed to win 2. While on the face of it, it would certainly seem like TMC has held on to its bastion, BJP winning a massive 18 is no mean feat. With a brute majority of 213 out of 295 Assembly seats, in 2014 General Elections, out of 42 seats, TMC bagged a whopping 34 seats while BJP bagged only 2.
West Bengal has traditionally been a communist bastion which shifted en masse to TMC in the hope of a better future. Unfortunately, what the state got was communism gift wrapped by TMC with a sheet of renewed, more severe violence and intimidation.
The promise of ‘Maa, Maati, Maanush’ was lost. Mothers were made to drink urine and their sons thrashed simply for praising the Prime Minister in a Facebook post. The maati, earth, was soaked with blood often and the maanush were lost in a sea of illegal immigration. In all, the Bengali mostly felt like motherless children.
Often, several Bengali Hindus spoke up and demanded change. But that change was also demanded in hushed conversations. The fear of their rebel against TMC being known shuddered their soul. Nobody wanted a broken house, bashed up children, the fear of goons hitting out at your workplace, or worse, the state government using the police machinery to throw you in jail.
The fear that Bengal lives through could be unfathomable to ones who live in other parts of the country. But it was real and palpable.
With BJP, the saffron party getting 18 seats in 2019, many in Bengal are shell-shocked. For every voter that went and reposed their faith in the Lotus, it was a personal rebellion, one they weren’t sure others would partake in.
How did the BJP manage to craft this victory? One that not even the people of Bengal saw coming? The voters led a personal rebellion on an organic level. None of them anticipated this Tsunami and none of them really believed that others felt the same way.
One slogan that became extremely popular in West Bengal in the run-up to 2019 Lok Sabha elections was ‘chup chaap kamal chhaap’ (silently, press the Lotus button). Essentially, BJP and volunteers told Bengalis (and I include the Marwari, Gujarati, Sikh community of Bengal in this) that they don’t need to risk their well-being by declaring how their allegiance has shifted from TMC to BJP, but just go vote for BJP.
It was a silent bond of trust that BJP managed to build with Bengal. ‘We understand you are scared, we will help you through this’, the slogan essentially said.
When OpIndia spoke to a volunteer from West Bengal, he said, on the condition of anonymity that for a large part of Bengal, the feeling was that BJP did not understand their plight, with this slogan, they began to trust the party.
There were numerous anecdotes about how some brave citizens started chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ on the street when convoys of TMC leaders passed. This came from a few brave quarters who had had enough of the tyranny.
While Bengal is the land of Maa Durga and Maa Saraswati, ‘Jai Shree Ram’ soon became a symbol of political protest.
One recalls how Mamata Banerjee got riled up when some youth yelled ‘Jai Shree Ram’ as her convoy passed. She got out of the car, threatened them, and claimed that they abused him.
TMC knew that their regionalism on television channels was not helping. They knew that their assertions that Lord Ram will not find resonance in Bengal were hogwash. More than religiosity, it was the political rebellion that Jai Shri Ram symbolised.
Bengal has traditionally shifted its political allegiance after several years of silent tolerance. It happened with the Communists. They lost the faith of the people and the people of Bengal never looked back. It seems to be happening with TMC now as well.
Whether this victory will translate into a sweep in the 2021 Assembly elections is yet to be seen. Perhaps BJP would need to develop a greater grassroots connect and certainly, find dynamic local leaders who find resonance with the local population.
However, a political revolution has begun. Bengal is ready to move as far away from communism (yes, even TMC’s brand of it) as possible. Bengal yearns for change. It took a step in that direction in this general election. Now it is up to BJP to live up to the faith Bengal has reposed in it.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017