The exit polls in Bengal came as a shocker to most people with the seat prediction for the Bharatiya Janata Party ranging between 3 and 23, out of 42. This, in stark contrast to what opinion polls said before the start of the election and during the campaign period, when all agencies put the BJP between 6 and 8. Here’s a look at the possible seats which the saffron party could have gained.
BJP Wave In North Bengal
North Bengal is predicted to go almost entirely to the BJP.
The Darjeeling seat is one that the party already holds. Its strategy to field an unknown face – Raju Bista – from the constituency instead of the incumbent SS Ahluwalia came into criticism. However, the Gorkhaland issue is still very central to the hill state which saw massive violence in 2017, and is expected to vote against the Trinamool once again.
The seats of Coochbehar and Alipurduar, which are border constituencies, have also seen a BJP wave in the last two years with tribal votes from the tea gardens going entirely to the BJP and the rising anger against the Trinamool for a very bloody panchayat election where many parts of these constituencies didn’t even get to vote.
Traditionally, Cooch Behar has been a Forward Bloc seat (before the Trinamool won in 2014) and the Left voter base is expected to go to the BJP now as has happened in most constituencies.
The seat of Balurghat too was predictably going towards the BJP with reports of factionalism within the Trinamool hampering its chances. Like the rest of North Bengal, the BJP wave was strong here too.
This makes it 4 seats in North Bengal for the BJP.
The two seats in Malda district – Malda North and Malda South – have been traditional Congress bastions. However, since the state elections in 2016, the BJP has been performing exceptionally well in the district, winning one of the four legislative Assemblies and also gaining most tribal areas in the panchayat polls. If the estimate of 11 and above has to be met, then both Malda North and South should go to the BJP. However, most people The Quint spoke to, who’ve travelled in the district, say that veteran leader Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury will pull through South for the Congress.
On the other hand, Ranaghat, in the district of Nadia might also vote BJP due to discontent amongst a section of the Trianmool cadre at Rupali Biswas, widow of a slain Trinamool MLA, being given a ticket – taking the party’s count to 7 from North Bengal.
Jangalmahal Likely To Vote With BJP
In the Jangalmahal districts of Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura too the Trinamool is expected to lose ground.
All these areas had a substantial Left vote which may now be shifting to the BJP owing to discontent with the Trinamool. Especially as local leaders in these areas are accused of routing all benefits of central and state schemes towards the party.
Purulia, especially, has also been witness to grotesque violence, allegedly by the Trinamool, with things coming to a head when an 18-year-old BJP worker was found hanging from a tree after the panchayat polls.
In Bankura, the Trinamool was having a tough time trying to undo the anti-incumbency and factionalism that arose out of Moon Moon Sen’s tenure as MP which is why the party installed veteran leader Subrata Mukherjee to fight these elections. However, lack of ground-level organisation may mean that the BJP has a strong chance of winning this seat too.
So of the four Jangalmahal seats, Purulia, Jhagram and Bankura look likely for the BJP. Midnapore, where the party has fielded State President Dilip Ghosh, however, seemed like a tough call.
This makes it a total pf 3-4 seats for the BJP in the Jangalmahal area, taking its tally to 10-11 as has been predicted by C-Voter and Times VMR.
Those observing the elections in the state say anything more than this number is an exaggeration.
Not Much Gain For The BJP In The South
The south is where the BJP is expected to lose out, in spite of making massive inroads there too.
In the urban areas around Kolkata, which include the constituencies of Kolkata South, Kolkata North, Jadavpur, Barasat, Basirhat, Sreerampur, Bardhaman-Durgapur, Bardhaman East, Arambagh, Barrackpore, Ghatal, Tamluk, Uluberia, Hooghly and Howrah, the Trinamool is expected to sweep as the BJP’s polarisation efforts has largely not worked with upper class Hindu voters in these areas.
However, those on the ground say that in Howrah and Basirhat specifically, the BJP is expected to gain some ground due to communal riots in these areas in the last 3 years. But the Trinamool’s far superior ground-level organisation is expected to help them sail through.
While the BJP also specifically targeted the Diamond Harbour seat where Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee is the incumbent MP, massive investment and also sheer muscle power is expected to win this one for the Trinamool.
The party is also looking to take back Asansol where Babul Supriyo’s lack of presence and camaraderie with local leaders may have hurt the BJP.
The two seats in the south that seem particularly difficult for the Trinamool are Birbhum and Bishnupur – both places where widespread violence from the ruling party is often reported. In Bishnupur, like in Coochbehar, there is massive discontent at not being able to vote during the panchayat polls. However, those on the ground, again say that the Trinamool’s organisation in these areas is very strong with Mamata’s trusted strongman Anubrata Mandal running things in Birbhum.
The border districts of Mathurapur, Jaynagar and Kanthi are expected to go with the Trinamool as well in spite of massive polarisation.
Those who have travelled across the state tell The Quint that while the BJP has made inroads all over the state, where it lagged behind is on organizational strength i.e. actually bringing the voter to the booth. Therefore, while the BJP’s vote share will significantly increase, subsuming a large part of the Left Front vote share, it is unlikely to convert into seats.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called all the exit polls ‘gossip’. Whether or not it is, we’ll know on 23 May.
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