Rahul Sinha at the news conference
Calcutta, Oct. 13: The BJP finished third in the Jangipur Lok Sabha by-election but its state leaders were sporting a winner’s smile after the results were declared today.
“In all the elections since the change of guard in Bengal, the vote share of every party has been on a downswing — except for the BJP. People have started searching for another option and have gradually started responding to us,” state unit president Rahul Sinha told a news conference.
From 4.4 per cent in the 2011 Assembly polls, the BJP’s vote share has jumped to 10.6 per cent.
BJP leaders admit they had not expected such a jump. “Given the Congress-Trinamul split, we had expected a rise in our vote share but not by so much,” a source said.
Officially, Trinamul said it was not concerned and hinted that some Trinamul voters had backed the BJP in the absence of a party candidate.
“The BJP is not a factor yet. Trinamul didn’t field any candidate. Murshidabad’s voters are sick of the mafia raj; so they voted for other parties,” minister Firhad Hakim said, alluding to Congress strongman Adhir Chowdhury’s grip on the district.
In private, though, some Trinamul leaders conceded that two factors may have worked in the BJP’s favour.
First, the disappointment a section of voters felt at the Mamata Banerjee government’s failure to bring any tangible development to the state. Second, the BJP’s campaign against the state government’s alleged “appeasement” of Muslims.
“People had voted in hordes for Trinamul to usher in change after 34 years of Left rule. A section of them are now disenchanted because they don’t see much happening in the state,” a Trinamul leader said.
“They feel that instead of blaming the Centre for everything, the chief minister should be pro-active and do something to bring development to Bengal.”
Some Trinamul leaders also feel that the BJP has “cleverly exploited” the measures the government has announced for Muslims.
Mamata has announced an allowance for imams and muezzins, a housing complex for the Muslims, a separate employment bank, a marketing hub exclusively for Muslims, and other benefits.
BJP sources said that in the run-up to the Jangipur by-election, local party leaders had launched a campaign in the constituency’s Hindu quarters about the Mamata government’s “policy of discrimination”. About 35 per cent of Jangipur’s population is Hindu and the rest are mostly Muslims.
The BJP also campaigned against the acquisition of 150 acres for a wing of the Aligarh Muslim University about 20km from Jangipur. Although the land was acquired by the Left government, the BJP is blaming Mamata for not protesting against it.
“Mamata launched several movements across the state against land acquisition but has remained silent on the land acquired for AMU though it happened after the Singur and Nandigram movements,” a BJP leader said. “Why this silence? Let the people draw their own conclusions.”
A Trinamul leader conceded that this “vicious campaign” may have succeeded partially in Jangipur.
A Congress leader said it was possible a section of the electorate was disillusioned with Trinamul and “disgusted” with the Congress, especially because of the corruption charges in Delhi, and may have started looking at the BJP as an option.
“This may have led some people opposed to the Left to vote for the BJP. They may feel the BJP should be given a chance,” he said.