The Calcutta Municipal Corporation poll results came as a shock for the BJP as its vote share came down by around 20 per cent in comparison to what it had got in the city in the Assembly elections barely six months ago.
The startling slide — from around 29 per cent in May to about 9 per cent in December — proves a complete collapse of the BJP in the state capital, several BJP insiders admitted in private.
The biggest political party in the country was lacklustre at its best in the campaign phase as none of its top national leaders visited Calcutta in the run up to the CMC polls. Still, several BJP leaders had said it would win at least 2025 wards and would emerge as the main Opposition party in Calcutta.
“This result is shameful. We had expected better than this…. We couldn’t even reach double digits in terms of vote percentage,” a senior BJP leader said.
“Number of wards in our pockets came down to three from seven (in 2015). This is nothing but a collapse.”
Speaking of the three winners — Meena Devi Purohit, Vijay Ojha and Sajal Ghosh — another BJP leader said no credit should be given to the party for their victory. “Each of them won in their own capacity. Meena ji and Vijay have been winning their seats from preNarendra Modi era. The BJP flag wouldn’t matter in their cases,” this person said.
Although most BJP leaders parroted the narrative of “largescale rigging and violence” on the pollday to justify their poor show, several insiders said in the private the results proved beyond doubt that the party had once again become a marginal player in Calcutta. “This is a bad signal as this poor show will cast a shadow over the forthcoming polls to 110odd civic bodies,” said a source.
The biggest shock for the BJP was its relegation to the number 3 position, behind the Left. Out of the 144 wards, the BJP emerged second in 47, while the Left bagged the runnerup slot in 65 wards. The Congress came second in 17 wards.
As the Left’s share of vote in Calcutta has risen to over 11 per cent this winter — while six months ago it had got around the same percentage when it had contested the Assembly polls in an alliance with the Congress and ISF — some Left leaders saw a silver lining in the outcome.
Trinamul supporters celebrate the party’s victory on Tuesday. Pradip Sanyal
“The civic poll results have indicated a rejection of the BJP as the Left and the Congress combined have come second in around 80 per cent of the seats. A lot of change is taking place in the Opposition space in Bengal,” said CPM veteran Sujan Chakraborty.
Several political scientists like Biswanath Chakraborty also observed that the CMC polls were indicative of a realignment in the Opposition space and the beginning of a Left resurgence. “Our analysis of the poll results shows that 116 BJP candidates, out of 142, lost their deposits.... The number is 97 for the Left parties. I think there is a change taking place in the Opposition space,” he said.
Even as the Left leaders were hopeful of a new beginning, some insiders cautioned against any early celebrations. “Over 110 civic bodies will go to the polls in a month or two. Unless we see the outcome there, we cannot claim that BJP has collapsed in Bengal at the cost of our resurrection,” a senior Left leader said.
While comparing the performances of the BJP and the Left some of the points that need to be considered are:
⚫ Calcutta has never been the strongest bastion for the BJP as it got around 29 per cent votes in the city in the 2021 Assembly polls. The party got about 39 per cent of the votes polled in April-May across the state while it got around 35% votes in Greater Calcutta. This means the city proper is a weak spot for the BJP. What can be said at best is the BJP has become weaker in the city, said a source.
⚫ Another Left insider said had the BJP’s fall and the Left’s socalled surge were linked, the Left would have bagged a major share of the votes lost by the saffron camp.
“The BJP lost around 20 per cent of its vote share in comparison to the Assembly polls. But the Left’s gain hasn’t been to that extent. Although there has been a gain, it isn’t substantial enough in comparison to Trinamul which increased its vote share by around 13 per cent against what it received six months ago,” this insider said.
⚫ The Left has always been organisationally superior to the BJP in Calcutta. In fact, on the day of the polling, CPM leaders and workers were seen hitting the streets and actively protesting against the alleged misconduct and violence whereas the BJP leaders could rarely make a mark in the city.
Some BJP leaders said that while analysis of the numbers is important, priority should be given to extensive outreach initiatives so that the party was seen with people.
A BJP source said during the peak of Covid19induced lockdown, the BJP leaders were not found with people whereas the CPM came up with the innovative idea of Red Volunteers and young members of the party did a remarkable job in helping the distressed people.
“They (CPM) renewed their bond with the people during the pandemic, we couldn’t. We were in the social media celebrating the achievements of our national leaders. We did no work on the ground and the results prove that people have rejected us,” this person added.
Throughout the day, several Trinamul leaders congratulated the Left for coming back as the strongest Opposition in the city. The party’s general secretary, Kunal Ghosh, said that it was a welcome mandate by the people that they had chosen the Left as the main Opposition, thereby defeating a unholy force such as the BJP.
Taking a dig at Trinamul for this narrative, state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said: “They are trying to create an illusion in front of the people that the Left is resurging. This will help Trinamul politically. But we won’t let them fool the people.”
Majumdar did, however, admit that his party was weak in Calcutta and said it would do “much better” in the coming civic polls, which will be held in other parts of the state.