May 13, 2021 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
This presentation is based on Sikh Pakh’s analysis of West Bengal Elections.
Ideally, in a democracy, the elections should be contested on the basis of political, economic and cultural policies aimed at welfare of the society. But during the recently held West Bengal elections, the narrative was not based on any of the above policies. It was the poll tactics which shaped the narrative of West Bengal elections. Therefore, it will be more helpful to analyze the outcome of these elections on the basis of tactics used during this entire campaign.
Following tactical maneuvers were made during the election campaign:
Patriotism and Nationalism
Performance of the Past
Dream of the Future
Dividing the Opponent’s Electorate
Gaining Sympathy by Playing Victim Card
Infusing Fear in the Opponent, and
perception Creating Skills
Religious Polarization: In states where Muslim population is less then 15%, the BJP uses religious polarization to pool the votes of Hindu Upper Caste along with SCs, STs and employed class of BCs and OBCs. Despite considerable social differences between aforesaid sections, BJP able to garner their votes by successfully polarizing them against the Muslims. But the case of West Bengal was different. Here on 65 seats Muslim population is more than 40%. On 30-35 seats Muslim pollution is between 30% to 40%, and further on 30-35 seats Muslim pollution is between 20% to 30%. Therefore, there are about 130 seats in West Bengal where Muslims count for more than 20% and above all some of these seats are totally dominated by Muslims where their pollution is between 60% to 90%. As a result, BJP’s religious polarization strategy backfired on these seats as Muslims rallied behind the TMC to stop BJP from gaining power in West Bengal.
In 2019, the main reason behind BJP’s victory on Muslim dominated Lok Sabha seats of Madha Uttar, Madha Dakshin, Behrampur and Raiganj was division of Muslim votes between TMC, CMP and Congress.
Out of 44 seats won by Congress in 2016, TMC has recorded victory on 29 seats this time. Out of these 29 seats, 26 are Muslim dominated seats.
BJP’s success rate in districts with more than 25% Muslim population is just 8%. BJP has won 7 seats out of total 85 seats in these districts.
BJP’s success rate in districts with Muslim population between 15% to 25% is 25%. BJP has won 37 seats out of total 155 seats in these districts.
BJP’s success rate in districts with less than 15% Muslim population is 61%. BJP has won 32 seats outs of total 52 seats in these districts.
Social Engineering: In North Indian states (UP, Bihar etc.) social engineering is considered as the primary basis of politics. In these states, parties are formed on the basis of castes which also remains the main factor behind casting of votes. BJP uses social engineering as an election tool in these states.
For the past few years, the RSS has started working amongst SCs in West Bengal. This work has reflected in election results of BJP’s victory on assembly seats in Nadia and North 24 Pargana districts where there is a considerable SC population.
It is notable that caste-based identities have behaved differently in different regions. In Northern districts of West Bengal- Cooch-Bihar, Alibardar, Jalpaiguri and Dargling, which are located in the vicinity of Assam, the Hindu upper class has voted for the BJP, but in Kolkata and areas of other districts that are close to Kolkata, the upper-caste (Bhadarlok) have voted differently (which is analyzed in next point).
BJP’s success rate in northern districts (that are close to Assam) is 81%. BJP has won 27 seats outs of total 22 seats in these districts.
Infusing Fear in the Opponent: BJP uses alleged Love Jihad and Gau-Maas (Beef) to infuse fear in Muslim community. It also uses central agencies (CBI, IT, ED etc.) to infuse fear in opponent political leaders. In Uttar Pradesh BJP was able to use these tactics successfully, but it did not work in West Bengal due following reasons,
– firstly, Mamta Banerjee stood up firmly against Center’s ‘excesses’ and used BJP’s targeting of TMC leaders to gain sympathy;
– secondly, Muslims are in higher numbers in West Bengal as compared to UP. On some seats in West Bengal Muslims account for 90% of the total population.
Perception Creating Skills: It could only be termed as success of Perception creating art of the BJP that with the use of its narrative building power and ground level booth management it was able to project one-sided battle, not only during the campaign but even after the polling, as ‘neck-to-neck fight’ in general perception
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