In Bengal, BJP might be left with lone seat again

Despite taking on the Mamata Banerjee government in a frontal attack, Narendra Modi is not expected to make major gains in seat terms, though vote share set to go up substantially, says academic-psephologist

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Puja Bhattacharjee | May 6, 2014




As the Modi-Mamata war of words heats up in West Bengal – elsewhere it's still Modi versus Priyanka Gandhi – it emerges the BJP's prime ministerial candidate might not have much to smile about so far as Bengal goes. Though the BJP's vote share is definitely going to improve, it might have to settle with the solitary – or at most a couple of – seats.

In fact, if Narendra Modi thought his aggressive stance against “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh would help the party notch up an additional seat or two by polarising the electorate, he could be in for a shock. According to Biswanath Chakraborty, who teaches at Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University and is a psephologist, Modi’s massive campaign against Bangladeshi refugees in West Bengal will hardly have any impact in favour of BJP.  Instead, TMC’s swift response against his statements will help Banerjee’s party consolidate its position in the remaining two phases of the polls, when as many as 23 seats would go to the polls.

“The people of West Bengal are averse to any kind of tension arising out of communal disharmony. For them, Bangladeshi immigrants are not much of an issue,” Chakraborty said.

In sum, Chakraborty said, a large majority of the voters will support the TMC, despite the projections of the opinion polls.

Here's the lowdown predicted by  Chakraborty: of 42 Lok Sabha seats in Bengal, 19 will have a four-cornered fight (between TMC, Left Front, Congress and the BJP), two will have a five-cornered fight (the fifth being SUCI in Joynagar and Mahendra Lama, an independent candidate in Darjeeling), while it is expected to be a straight contest between the Left and TMC for 13 seats. The remaining eight, he predicts, would see a three-cornered fight.

According to Chakraborty, Left vote will further reduce by 2-3 percent in comparison with 2013 panchayat elections. TMC, too, can see its vote share drop by a percentage point from the 42 the party received in the panchayat elections.

According to sources, Congress's vote share could be shaved by 2 percent from 13 percent vote share in the local polls last year. Voting percent-wise, it is expected to be advantage BJP.

However, apart from Darjeeling BJP will not win many seats Chakraborty said.

The Congress may retain its two seats in Malda and three in Murshidabad. The TMC, he said, might win Medinipur, Howrah, Hooghly, Bardhaman, Bishnupur, Bankura and Purulia.

A close contest is expected in Jalpaiguri, Nadia, South and North Dinajpur, as well as South and North 24 Parganas. “Despite an erosion of vote share, Left is the only viable alternative against the TMC," Chakraborty said. "The social support base and organisational structure of the Left is comparable to that of Trinamool. The TMC will secure maximum parliamentary constituencies in these elections, going up to 36. The Left may go down to 10 from 15 and BJP is likely to retain Darjeeling seat.”

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