Kolkata: The Trinamool Congress (TMC) swept the West Bengal by-elections Tuesday, winning all four seats that went to the polls on 30 October.
The ruling party, significantly, wrested two seats — Dinhata and Santipur — which were held by the BJP.
The TMC won by a record 1,64,089 votes at Dinhata in Cooch Behar, which had been held by Nisith Pramanik, currently the Minister of State (MoS) in the home ministry. He vacated it after he was awarded a cabinet berth.
The BJP also lost by 64,675 votes at Santipur in Nadia, a seat that was held by its MP Jagannath Sarkar, who had won it in the assembly elections earlier this year.
Both Dinhata and Santipur are located in the 20-km radius of India-Bangladesh international border and the BJP had based its election campaign on the Taliban, the anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh and Kashmir.
Drubbing in Dinhata
The Dinhata campaign was spearheaded by Pramanik, who had won the 2021 state elections by a mere 57 votes. This time, however, the BJP’s Ashok Mondal managed just 25,486 votes as opposed to the TMC candidate Udayan Guha, who got 1,89,575 votes.
The BJP’s vote share in the constituency slipped to 11 per cent from the 46.60 earlier, while the Trinamool Congress’ rose to 88 per cent from the earlier 47.58 per cent.
“The BJP won the last election by tampering with the voting machines,” Udayan Guha said. They had their machinery in action. This time, people responded to them by voting in Didi’s favour. Their communal campaign and ways to polarise people did not work. The record margin shows how people have rejected them.”
Partha Chatterjee, the TMC secretary general and state’s industries minister, echoed Guha. “People have reacted to the BJP’s politics of hatred. This election result also establishes Mamata Banerjee as the only formidable opposition to Modi,” he said.
The BJP, however, downplayed Trinamool’s victory and the huge margin, saying it was a consequence of the post-poll violence in the state.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh alleged that his party workers and leaders were “threatened and intimidated” by police and ruling party leaders.
“Post the Bengal election results, workers are demotivated and worried. They could not guard the booths. We were not allowed to campaign,” he alleged.
“In this way, Trinamool can even get 100 per cent of the votes but this does not present the real picture. After the 2019 general elections, we lost bypoll seats, but we bounced back. BJP will stand on its own feet again when the right time comes. Our main aim is now to protect our work.”
Amit Malviya, senior BJP leader and co-in charge of Bengal, said it was “amusing to see the TMC gloating at the win in bypolls”.
“The entire state machinery, including police and civil administration, was unleashed to intimidate voters. But the big revelation is TMC’s admission that the violence post 2 May was at their behest. Mamata Banerjee as home minister presided over it,” he said.
“It is a manufactured margin, where people have voted, under the fear of retribution. If we have to save Bengal from descending into chaos, Mamata Banerjee must be voted out. People of Bengal realise this now more than ever,” Malviya added.
Drop in vote-share
The BJP fared no better in the other three seats. At Santipur, where BJP MP Jagannath Sarkar won by around 16,000 votes just six months ago, the party lost by 63,892 votes in the bypoll.
While the BJP’s Niranjan Biswas secured 47,412 votes, the Trinamool’s Braja Kishor Goswami managed 1,12,087 votes.
Sarkar, the BJP MP from Ranaghat, admitted there were issues with the party’s campaign.
“There was a problem with the selection of candidates. We faced similar issues during the last election,” he said. “We need to put our house in order first.”
At Gosaba, the TMC registered another record win, with party candidate Subrata Mondal beating the BJP’s Palash Rana by a massive 1,43,051 votes.
It was no better at Khardah, where the BJP lost by 93,832 votes.
While the TMC’s Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay secured 1,14,086 votes here, the BJP’s Joy Saha ended up with a mere 20,254 votes.
In all, the BJP’s vote-share dropped below 15 per cent in these four seats put together, while the Trinamool’s has risen to 78 per cent.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)