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NEW BATTLES

There are three aspects of the election results in West Bengal that are worth noting. First, the triumph of the Trinamul Congress; second, the devastation of the Left; and third, the signs of the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a potent political force in the state. Of the three, the second, the decline of the Left, is a continuation of past electoral trends. It has been evident that the Left’s support base in West Bengal is being eroded, and this process continued in the 2014 elections. The leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) seems to be oblivious to this reality, and persists in mouthing clichés like the results are the product of extensive rigging by the TMC. The Left and its ideology are becoming irrelevant in India and also in what was once its stronghold, West Bengal. The CPI(M) can remain happy with its existence in Tripura. In West Bengal, the CPI(M) has had a great fall and all the comrades of Prakash Karat cannot put the CPI(M) together again. Its days are over and it does not even deserve an obituary.

The other two features are somewhat related. The rise of the BJP is not indicated by the number of seats it has won but by the rise in its vote share in every single constituency. This rise is the function of two factors. One is the impact of the “Modi wave” that swept across India, especially the north. Sections of the people in West Bengal responded positively to Narendra Modi, and it would appear that voters who had previously not supported the BJP did vote for the party this time. The other factor is best described as a reaction to Mamata Banerjee’s overt wooing of Muslims. But this wooing by Ms Banerjee has brought to her the fruits of an incredible victory. Faced with an aggressive campaign on the part of Mr Modi, the Muslims of West Bengal chose to vote for Ms Banerjee, who fashioned herself as the real opponent of Mr Modi and refused to brook the idea of any kind of compromise with him and his party. In spite of her resounding success, Ms Banerjee faces formidable challenges. She now has a new rival at the Centre. If Mr Modi were to work out any kind of special package for West Bengal, that gift would work to the benefit of the BJP rather than of the TMC. The BJP is thus poised to grow in West Bengal. With a hapless Left gasping for life, political battles in the state will be between the TMC and the BJP.