With the outcome of the 2020 Bihar Assembly election now clear, all eyes are on the next round of polls in the country. Assam, Kerala, Union Territory of Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are expected to head for polls to elect new assemblies in April-May 2021.
In these states, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which powered the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to a win in Bihar is in power only in Assam. The saffron party has not been a strong political force in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry even though it has made some efforts in the last few years.
Thus, the BJP’s focus is now on West Bengal. The party has repeatedly said that it aims to defeat Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the 2021 polls.
Both parties have been preparing for this contest since at least the conclusion of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP vs Trinamool Congress
The win in Bihar – as the first large election since the novel coronavirus pandemic started -- is likely to boost the morale of the BJP cadre. The NDA was able to retain power despite the COVID-triggered nationwide lockdown leading lakhs of migrants returning to Bihar amid economic distress.
BJP leaders from Bengal, such as the party’s National Vice President Mukul Roy have expressed confidence that his party would do well in the upcoming election.
“The results of Bihar Assembly Elections echo people's utmost faith in NDA. I congratulate the karyakartas and leaders of @BJP4Bihar who have worked tirelessly during the elections. Bihar will tread on the path of further development. It is time for West Bengal now,” Roy said in a tweet.
BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said on November 10 that the victory would be "much bigger" in Bengal (than in Bihar) and claimed that the "party would storm to power with a two-thirds majority".
Bengal has seen the dramatic rise of the BJP over the last few years. Its efforts on the ground led to the party winning 18 of Bengal’s 42 parliamentary seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, up from just two in 2014. This rise came at the cost of not just the TMC, which saw its tally fall from 34 to 22, but also the Congress and the Left Front.
BJP’s vote share in the state (in the general election) soared to 40.6 percent from about 17 percent in 2014. This brought the saffron party’s vote share close to TMC’s 43.6 percent.
Plus, the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have done well in elections where they are contesting as challengers.
Yet, BJP is also likely to face challenges. The Banerjee-led government’s handling of the pandemic will also decide which way voters sway. Plus, the BJP has not portrayed a chief ministerial candidate to take on two-term chief minister Banerjee.
Recent election results and voting trends have clearly shown that India has moved towards ‘split-ticket’ voting where voters tend to vote very differently for elections at the Centre and in the state.
The introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed pan-India National Register Citizens (NRC) remain contentious issues, especially in the state of Bengal which borders Bangladesh.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) bagged five assembly seats in Bihar, topping up the gains it made in the 2019 general election. AIMIM had contested the election as part of the ‘Grand Democratic Secular Front’ along with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and former union minister Upendra Khushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP), among other smaller parties.
Now, there is a chance that AIMIM could contest the election in Bengal and look to replicate success there. Early analysis shows that AIMIM may have hurt the Mahagathbandhan’s chances in at least six seats. Thus, the party could damage the TMC and the Congress’s chances in Bengal.
“BJP's tact of using (Asaduddin) Owaisi Sahab's party in the Bihar elections has succeeded to an extent. All secular parties should be alert about vote cutter Owaisi Sahab,” news agency ANI quoted Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as saying. Chowdhury hails from Bengal.
The Bihar election marked the resurgence of the Left in the state with the three of these parties – part of the MGB – winning 16 of the 29 seats they contested.
The tally of the three parties – CPI (M-L), CPM and CPI – was just three short of the Congress. In fact, the Left showed the highest strike rate (55.1 percent) among all parties, according to poll analysts. This is likely to be a morale booster for the Left cadre in Bengal too.Read: Resurgence of the Left with 16 seats in Bihar