Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) appears to have significantly eroded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s popularity among Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) groups, the assembly election results show.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP had won 46 of the state’s 84 seats reserved for SC and STs, while the TMC had 37 seats and Congress, one.
This time, BJP won 39, while TMC has won 45.
Of these 84 seats, 68 are reserved for SCs and 16 for STs. A further breakdown of these seats reveals that TMC gained mostly from seats reserved for STs.
In 2019, the BJP was leading in 13 of these 16 seats, while the TMC led in only three. This time, the TMC has won nine of those and the BJP got seven.
This is mostly on account of the tribal-dominated pockets in Jangalmahal, the southwestern region of the state, where the TMC recovered votes lost to BJP in 2019.
However, TMC’s gains were not only in number of seats but also in terms of vote share. The BJP’s vote share in the seats they managed to win has drastically come down when compared to the 2019 vote share.
For example, the BJP had a lead of over 45,000 votes at Gazole in Malda district in the Lok Sabha elections but this time managed to win by a slender margin of 1,798 votes. In Para in Purulia district, where the BJP had a lead of 42,000 votes in 2019, the party won by only 4,000 votes.
Raghunathpur in the same district, where the BJP had a lead of 43,000 votes in 2019, went to the BJP this time with a margin of only 5,000 votes. In Ranaghat Dakshin in Nadia district, the BJP in 2019 had secured a lead of 45,000 votes but won the seat this time by 16,500 votes.
In Jalpaiguri of north Bengal, the BJP had a handsome lead of 39,000 votes over the TMC in 2019 but they lost the seat by 900 votes now.
Even in the areas dominated by the refugee communities of Matua-Namasudra, where the BJP managed to win most of the seats, their vote share has come down.
Explaining the party’s success in winning over a section of people from the SC and ST communities who had become disgruntled with the TMC, a senior TMC MP said, “Prashant Kishor had told us in 2019 that the BJP’s rise in areas dominated by the backward castes was less because of the appeal of Hindutva among them and more because of local grievances related to delivery and corruption. Once we managed to improve on that aspect, votes returned. The MP requested not to be identified.
The BJP’s rising popularity in the state’s areas dominated by the backward classes had drawn a great deal of attention from scholars and academics. Following this, TMC too focused on winning over people from these communities. This opened the door for identity politics on an unprecedented level in the state.
Among the moves the TMC made in 2019 was to revive its literally defunct SC-ST-OBC Cell. Later, the party divided the cell into three separate wings for the three groups. In the TMC’s candidate selection, too, members from the SC communities found priority, as the party fielded 79 candidates from the community. The state has 68 reserved seats.
BJP have got half of their total seats in the state from these reserved ones. Of the party’s tally of 77 seats, 39 were reserved. This could well reflect how the BJP has failed to impress a majority of people from the middle classes and ‘upper’ castes in the state.
Manoranjan Byapari, an award-winning Dalit litterateur, won from the SC-reserved Balagarh in Hooghly district on a TMC ticket by about 6,000 votes. The TMC was trailing behind the BJP by 34,000 votes in 2019. According to him, the BJP’s popularity among the backward classes was linked to a lack of education.
“The areas dominated by the backward classes have a lower literacy rate and socio-political awareness and suffer from the predominance of religious superstitions. That helped the BJP to influence them with a misinformation campaign. Several Dalit organisations worked on this aspect over the past couple of years, as a result of which the BJP’s influence has waned,” Byapari said.
He is also the chairman of the state’s Dalit Sahitya Academy.
BJP leaders did not want to comment on the issue until the party had conducted an assessment of the losses.