Smart Campaigning – The Didi Way - May 17, 2021

In the just concluded Assembly elections in West Bengal, the Trinmool Congress turned around BJP’s sloganeering on its head to get favours from the electorates. It’s clear that personal attacks in the campaigning or polarisation on religious grounds didn’t work. It has worked in BJP’s favour in Lok Sabha election; however, this time it has turned against BJP.

Out of 294 assembly seats, almost 90 seats have sizable Muslim majority. Muslims constitute almost 30% and backward classes constitutes 27% of total electorate. Strategy for campaign used by BJP had no impact as it could yield out of Uttar Pradesh. Out of the 90 minority dominated seats TMC bagged 76 seats. TMC has countered BJP’s Jai Shri Ram slogan with Chandi Paath. One factor needs to be understood and stands out vivid is that minority or Muslim votes consolidation halted BJP’s prospect. Voter has turned wise keeping at bay AIMIM or Indian Secular Front in spite of their leaders drawing more crowds. BJP tried to field Adityanath to allure non-Bengali votes; however, it turned out to be damp squib. BJP tried to bring division in the votes of TMC through corruption charges or Jai Shri Ram sloganeering; both these planks were out rightly rejected by majority of voters. On the other hand, women voters’ massive support for TMC has brought landslide win for Mamata Banerjee. TMC increased its vote share to 48% at the same time BJP’s vote share declined to 38% from its Lok Sabha election vote share of 40% in 2019.

BJP tried to influence voters by emphasising on Centre’s welfare schemes and promising that those schemes would be better implemented if it would be given a mandate to rule the state. BJP called it Double Engine government meaning schemes and intentions of state and central government working in tandem for the fast results. However, TMC government’s schemes like Kanyashree (funds and Cycles for girls) already had its spree over the voters, particularly women of the state. The women voters saw Mamata as one from amongst themselves.

BJP entered the foray with same old rhetoric but could not use CAA as its main plank. Diversion of some Matua votes towards TMC also dented BJP in many pockets. To BJP’s credit, it won seats in the North Bengal on developmental issue and consolidated its vote bank across the state. However, lacking a Chief Ministerial face went against BJP’s prospects as fence-sitter voters had chosen continuity in the state’s leadership over uncertainty about the Chief Minister. Overall TMC has stitched together a wider support base in the state along with micro-management of voters in each constituency. TMC’s own mass base and Prashant Kishore’s skills of making the political organization reach out to each household in each constituency helped Mamata Banerjee in trouncing BJP in the assembly election.

- Dr. Ganesh Mantri