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What was Trinamul’s fault? Why did BJP win all seats in North Bengal, asks a desperate Mamata

CM questions Jalpaiguri poll gathering: Am I not Hindu enough? Did I not give Rs 5 crore for the Jalpesh temple? Don’t I observe Durga Puja, Kali puja? Opposition sees frustration in Trinamul chief's posers

Our Bureau Calcutta Published 13.04.24, 03:11 PM
Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee File picture

Mamata Banerjee questioned the voters of North Bengal – a section of whom will go to the polling booths on April 19 in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections for the three seats of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri – why they had voted the BJP in the polls five years ago.

“What was the Trinamul’s fault? Why did BJP win all the seats in North Bengal?” the chief minister of Bengal asked on Saturday while campaigning for the Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha seat.

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The question ran through the entire length of her speech as she spoke about the beneficiary schemes of her government, the complaints against the BJP and accusations against her political rivals from the BJP, the Congress and the Left.

“Why did BJP win all the seats in Jungle Mahal?” she asked.

In 2019, the seven seats from North Bengal – extending from Cooch Behar in the farthest corner of the state to Maldah – helped the BJP take its tally to 18 in the state, with the remaining 11 from South Bengal. In 2014, when Narendra Modi first came to power the saffron party had won two seats in Bengal.

For the BJP to meet its target of 400 seats in the Lok Sabha, the 42 on offer in Bengal are going to play a crucial role.

The chief minister’s main complaint, it appeared from her speech, was why in spite of the Trinamul government’s emphasis on creating a beneficiary class across vast sections of the society, the BJP was able to gain the momentum, especially in the general elections.

In the 2021 Assembly polls, the Trinamul romped home with a comfortable majority and trounced the BJP, while managing to recover some lost ground in North Bengal, where the elections to the eight seats will be held in the first three phases. For the 215 seats that the Trinamul won, its vote share was 48.02 per cent. The BJP, which had bagged about 40 per cent votes in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, could manage only 77 seats and the vote share fell to 37.97 per cent.

“I came here in 2021 Assembly polls, but Gautam (Deb, former North Bengal Development minister) lost from Dabgram-Fulbari. What was the Trinamul’s crime that the people of Dabgram-Fulbari, the people of North Bengal did not vote for us?” Mamata asked again. “Am I not Hindu enough? Did I not give Rs 5 crore for the Jalpesh temple? Don’t I observe Durga Puja, Kali puja? Don’t I participate in Eid festivities? Do I not participate in the festivals of all the communities?”

The Congress vote share, when it last came to power in Bengal on its own 52 years ago, stood at 49.08 per cent. In 2006, when the Left Front formed the government in Bengal for the last time, its combined vote share was around 50 per cent, while the CPM’s stood at 37.1 per cent. In 2021, the Congress vote share was a mere 2.93 per cent and CPM’s 4.73 per cent.

While there have been internal debates on why the Left parties support base was dwindling and causes identified, in its campaign the focus is on why they think the voters should choose them over their political rivals.

"In a democracy it is the people who decide who they want to elect. Trinamul is one party which does not even trust its own voters," said a CPM state committee member. "In campaigns we plead with the people to support us, the final decision is theirs."

Both the Opposition parties, the BJP and the CPM sense a desperation in Mamata’s questioning of the voters.

“She talks about giving money to the people in North Bengal. That money is not from her personal savings, rather what her party leaders have looted from the people,” said CPM central committee member and Dum Dum candidate Sujan Chakraborty. “She is misusing her position as the chief minister and seeking votes from the Eid namaz at Red Road. She is afraid of losing more seats this time.”

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Shamik Bhattacharya attributed Mamata's statement to the chief minister’s frustrations, saying she was the only politician who could question the electorate.

“She can sense the feeling on the ground. She is well aware of what is happening and what is going to happen on June 4. All her speeches in the last seven days are an outpouring of her frustrations,” said Bhattacharya.

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