Polarisation, or as some would say counter-polarisation to refer to the consolidation of Hindu votes, has helped the BJP's growth in Bengal but it may not be major factor.
While the narrative over Bangladeshi immigrants, minority appeasement and row over Muharram and Durga Puja processions benefitted the BJP, the party gained the most due to the "absence of a strong opposition".
There was a political vacuum in Bengal due to the weakening of Congress and Left, and "BJP reaped the benefits" from it, said Sabir Ahmed, the national researcher coordinator linked to SNAP (Social Network for Assistance to People) Bengal, while speaking to Moneycontrol.
He pointed out how the saffron party inducted a host of leaders from the Congress and Communist Part of India (Marxist). Ground workers of the Left parties, in 2019, covertly worked for the BJP with the intent to "teach the Trinamool a lesson", he said.
This anti-Trinamool sentiment among the Left cadres was effectively used by the BJP. They said "pehle Ram phir Bam (first Ram, then communism)", Ahmed added.
What the anguished Left workers did - by supporting BJP on the ground - was a "huge mistake", he said.
The Left votes transferred to the saffron party and that resulted in their best-ever performance in the parliamentary seats of Bengal, the researcher said. The BJP had won 18 out of the 42 seats with a 42 percent vote share. The CPI(M), in the process, failed to win any seat in the state which was once its citadel.
However, Ahmed also noted that the BJP found a "fertile ground" in Bengal which allowed it to capitalise on the lack of opposition.
"The state has a migrant population, and they responded when a party promised them citizenship. And on the other hand, the symbolic appeasement of Mamata Banerjee, like Imam allowance and iftar parties - which did not benefit in improving the conditions of Muslims - ended up providing a fertile ground for the BJP," he said.
Sanjay Kumar agreed, saying that many in the state believe the Trinamool government "engaged in a lot of appeasement of Muslims, even at the expense of Hindus".
"We are witnessing counter-polarisation," the top CSDS researcher said.
The phenomenon was visible in the last Lok Sabha polls, where the BJP won even in seats like Raiganj which has nearly 49 percent Muslim voters. The division of the community's votes between TMC's Kanaia Lal Agarwal and CPI(M)'s sitting MP Mohammed Salim allowed BJP's Debasree Chaudhuri to clinch a victory.
In Cooch Behar, where the Muslim population is between 27 and 30 percent, BJP's Nisith Pramanick had won by over 54,000 votes against Trinamool candidate Paresh Chandra Adhikary. The BJP's vote percentage in this seat jumped from 28 percent in 2014 to 48 percent in 2019 - signalling significant counter-polarisation.
A similar result was seen in Balurghat, where over a third of the electorate was Muslim. BJP candidate Sukanta Majumdar won against sitting MP and theatre activist Arpita Ghosh by 13,000 votes.
"Counter-polarisation in Bengal is a factor, but it is going hand-in-hand with the desire for change," Kumar said.
A communal row had erupted in 2017 when dates of Durga Puja processions clashed with the Muharram juloos (Representative image: Reuters)