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Amit Shah sounds election bugle in West Bengal by setting target as 200 seats: Can BJP do it? Here is what trend says

West Bengal, just like Tripura can throw a surprise nobody is really prepared for, least of all, Mamata Banerjee.

Home Minister Amit Shah is on a two-day visit to West Bengal ahead of the 2021 Assembly Elections all set to be held in the state. West Bengal has long been a coveted state for the Bhartiya Janta Party since the party has long believed that the country cannot see a renaissance without Bengal having a nationalist government. Speaking at Bankura, Amit Shah yesterday sounded the poll bugle and declares that the party would work towards getting 200 out of 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal.

Speaking to BJP workers who have often been at the receiving end of TMC’s ire and have cadres who also sacrificed their life in the state, Amit Shah said that people can continue to laugh at this aim, but the party will work diligently to get 200 seats in the upcoming Assembly Elections.

Amit Shah also evoked Bhagwan Birsa Munda. Birsa Munda – a tribal freedom fighter, religious leader and a folk hero belonged to the Munda tribe. Birsa Munda spearheaded an Indian tribal mass movement that arose in the tribal belt of modern Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh in the late 19th century during the British Raj. Munda is one of the most important faces of Indian tribal movements against the British, who inspired various tribes not only Mundas but also Kharias and Oraons, who accepted him as their leader.

Birsa Munda was born at Ulihatu in the Bengal Presidency (presently in Jharkhand) on 15 November 1875 into a Munda family. Munda spent his childhood amidst poverty in a typical tribal setup, where he converted to Christianity and became Birsa David in order to receive an education from a missionary school.

During the late 1880s, Munda began to understand the nature of exploitation meted out by the British against the native tribals. The huge disruption caused by British agrarian policies made an impact on the livelihood of these tribal people, disrupting their usual way of life which was hitherto peaceful and in tune with nature. Not only British economic and political policies but also aggressive religious and cultural policies of the Christian missionaries which belittled the tribal people and their culture acted as fuel for their fight against the British.

Can BJP get 200 seats in 2021 West Bengal elections, as Amit Shah said? The numbers suggest they can

States like West Bengal and Tripura are generally difficult to predict for pollsters because a majority of people are often tightlipped about their political preference. These states tend to be extremely politically aware and especially in states like West Bengal, the fear of facing backlash for their political choice is far too great for voters to be vocal if they plan to go against the ruling establishment.

At this point, Amit Shah’s claims that BJP can win 200 out of 294 Assembly seats in Bengal seems outlandish. BJP currently has 16 MLAs out of the grand total of 294 with TMC having a brute majority in the state with 222 seats. The Communist party is just a shade better than BJP, having 19 seats and Congress has 24 MLAs out of 294.

Given these numbers, for BJP to even think of getting 200 out of 294 seats merely after 5 years of getting 16 out of 294 seems to be pipe dream that nobody believes.

However, while unbelievable, is it really impossible?

Well, if the trend hold, it might be.

Let us take Tripura for example.

In 2013 Assembly Elections, the BJP had not even managed to win 1 seat in Tripura. The Communist party had won 49 seats and Congress had bagged 10. Just the next year, in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Communists had bagged both Lok Sabha seats leaving the national parties far behind.

In 4 years, by the time 2018 assembly elections were held, the tables had turned and how. BJP ended up bagging 36 seats and the Communists were restricted at 16 seats. From 49 seats in 2013 to all 2 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 to 16 seats and a complete rout in Tripura in 2018. Few pollsters had predicted this rout. Jann Ki Baat had got it right and had predicted 14 to 23 for the Communists. CVoter, however, had given the Communists 24 to 36 seats.

If Tripura is a template to go on, it is entirely possible that BJP could pull out a massive victory in Bengal without anyone really seeing them coming. After all, that is how the TMC came into power, to begin with. In West Bengal, that is exactly what happened when the Communists were thrown out and TMC swept the polls.

In 2006 Assembly Elections, The Communists won 176 seats out of the 212 they contested.  The Left Front together managed to bag 233 seats. A brute majority that would appear insurmountable and undefeatable.

In 2011 Assembly Elections, the tables turned in the blink of an eye. Within the 5 years, the Left Front had been routed. TMC in 2011 ended up winning 190 seats (184 + 6 by-polls) and along with Congress, the alliance bagged 226 seats leaving the Left Front at 62.

In 2016 Assembly elections, TMC alone won 211 seats. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections too saw a brute majority of Mamata’s TMC.

Essentially, the pattern is evident.

A party which was not even remotely poised to win the state first makes small headways, almost negligible. Then, in one election, they suddenly make a headway that is a surprise, however, not too substantial to get alarmed about. Then, in the following election, there is landslide in their favour and the power equation in the state suddenly changes.

BJP seems to be going in that direction. They were nowhere in the political spectrum at all until 2019 Lok Sabha elections where they won 18 seats with a massive vote share of 42.86%. In the 2021 Assembly elections, it is therefore not laughable that Amit Shah is setting his eyes on a landslide victory.

The staggering numbers in Lok Sabha elections 2019 for BJP pointed towards a growing disenchantment in the state towards the Mamata Banerjee led government. in the run-up to Lok Sabha, 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.

Moreover, the tyrannical trends in the state of myriad arrests for criticising the state government, minority appeasement of the Mamta Banerjee, the influx of illegal Bangladeshis and communal strife coupled with Hindus being murdered in the state by the cadre has played a significant role in the disenchantment. The Amphan destruction and the fact that the poor people of the state did not get the compensation promised is another Achilles heel that Mamata might have to pay the political price for.

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.

West Bengal, just like Tripura can throw a surprise nobody is really prepared for, least of all, Mamata Banerjee.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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