Amit Shah has set a target of winning 25 seats for the BJP in Bengal in 2024. However, even if it maintains its super performance of 2019 when it scored a whopping 303 seats on its own, the BJP is unlikely to achieve Shah’s ‘Mission 25’ in Bengal, but only It will be reduced to one point only. And the reason behind it is simple – India.
Recently, a surprising scene was witnessed in Bengaluru which stunned Left Front and Congress leaders in West Bengal alike, as Sitaram Yechury and Rahul Gandhi were seen sharing a selfie with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. In fact, Gandhi appeared to be engaged in a deep conversation with Banerjee. This, while their respective state leadership accused Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress of perpetrating violence against their cadres, which also resulted in deaths. But in Bengaluru, a decision was taken – “United we stand”. What this effectively means is that there will be a natural progression of seat-sharing in the coming days and weeks.
Here comes the googly.
News18 has done a postmortem of the 2019 Lok Sabha performance of all political parties and a shocking fact has come to the fore. There are 14 parliamentary seats won by the BJP in 2019 where the collective votes polled by India were more than the BJP candidate. However, since the opposition fought separately, the BJP won. 10 out of 14 such seats are from West Bengal.
Simply put, if India reaches the seat-sharing stage, the BJP could lose 10 seats in West Bengal, even if it does as well as it did in 2019. Last time, the BJP had got 18 seats – a first for the party under the leadership of then state president Dilip Ghosh. This would effectively mean that the number would drop to eight – single digits and a far cry from ‘Mission 25’.
From Union Minister to BJP State President can lose
In those 10 seats – where TMC, Congress and Left Front fight together – there are some high-profile names. These include Union Minister of State for Home Nisith Pramanik who contested from the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha constituency last time. Pramanik is also believed to have played a key role in persuading Rajbanshi leader Anant Maharaj after the BJP decided to field him for the saffron party’s first Rajya Sabha seat from Bengal.
Union Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shantanu Thakur may also face an uncertain future as his Lok Sabha seat Bongaon figures in this list. Thakur is also the face of the Matua community, which comprises a sizeable segment and is politically relevant in West Bengal – so much so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually addressed him during the inauguration of the ‘Matua Dharma Maha Mela’ last year.
BJP’s Bengal unit president Sukant Majumdar, who recently met Amit Shah to complain about violence during panchayat polls in the state and whose team won praise from top party functionaries including general secretary (organisation) BL Santosh, may face uncertainty this time around, data processed by News18 suggests. His seat Balurghat is also one of the 10 high-risk seats that the BJP could lose if India reaches a seat-sharing agreement.
The others in the 10 risky seats are Bardhaman where SS Ahluwalia won, Barrackpore where Arjun Singh (now joined TMC) won, Vishnupur where Soumitra Khan won, Hooghly where the party’s flamboyant woman leader Locket Chatterjee won and Jhargram where engineer-turned-politician Kumar Hembram won. Maldaha North and Raiganj also figure in the Risky 10 list, from where Khage Murmu and Debashree Chowdhary won on BJP tickets, respectively. Chowdhary was earlier in Modi’s Council of Ministers.
But, there’s a catch
Although the data never lies, politics is often influenced by a variety of factors. First, India’s constituents would have to reach a seat-sharing agreement for this data to make sense. At present, the opposition has not yet reached the level of common minimum programme.
In a state where the TMC is back in power in 2021, there is little chance that the party would be keen on giving up even an inch to its national allies.
Furthermore, the local leadership of the Congress and the Left Front is upset with their national leadership’s decision to “cooperate” with someone they see as their political rival. State Congress spokesperson Kaustav Bagchi earlier told News18, “It is because of TMC that eight Congress workers were killed. We informed our leadership that we will not accept any alliance with TMC.
Feelings are not very different among Left leaders, though they are not as vocal as Bagchi. Therefore, even if India reaches a seat-sharing agreement, it will have to involve the state leadership in order for it to be effective, which does not seem to be the case.
And finally, even if the state leadership is forced to accept any possible seat-sharing between the Congress, the Left and the TMC in next year’s Lok Sabha elections, transfer of votes will remain a concern.