Will BJP secure more seats than TMC in West Bengal in 2024 General Elections?

Leading media agencies of India have forecasted that during the 18th Lok Sabha Elections to be held in 2024, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is more likely to win in the state of West Bengal due to a plethora of reasons which include fragmentation of INDIA Alliance, Sandeshkhali incident, land grabbing by TMC workers, violence on Hindu voters in Muslim dominated regions and lastly PM Modi’s visit to the religious site of Matua community in Bangladesh to name a few.

Once known as the business and cultural capital of Akhand Bharat, West Bengal has lost its position as both the administrative and the cultural hub of the country. Still, with a staggering population of 10 crore, it is one of the most densely populated places in the world and sends 42 members to the lower house of Parliament.

So, the spotlight is on West Bengal as its 42 Lok Sabha constituencies will vote in seven phases spread over 44 days, starting with the first phase on 19 April and ending with the final phase on 1 June.

Prepoll Predictions

Many mainstream news agencies such as CNN-News 18, News9Live, India TV, et al have put up pre-poll predictions and they are unanimous on one thing – besides retaining all the 18 seats that were won in 2019, the BJP is going to wrest seats from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) as well. The only difference in the predictions is in the number of seats that the BJP is going to win additionally this time. The INDIA Alliance is badly divided and has not been able to strike a consensus.

While the TMC decided to fight it alone, the Congress Party has been targeting Mamata Banerjee more than Narendra Modi. So, this election will witness a tug-of-war between a strong BJP vying for the consolidated Hindu votes and its opponents competing to grab the minority votes that will get divided among the INDI Alliance partners.

As such, most opinion polls show the BJP winning a significant number of seats in West Bengal this time. Some pollsters even show the BJP winning 26 seats. According to News18’s Mega Opinion Poll, the BJP-led NDA may win 25 seats, and the TMC will bag the balance of 17 seats. News9Live puts the numbers at 26-16 in favour of the BJP. On the other hand, the India TV poll predicts a closer finish with 21 seats going to the BJP, 20 to the TMC, and one for the Congress Party.

Issues concerning Bengali voters

While BJP is focusing its campaign on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Sandeshkhali horror crimes, Mamata Banerjee is making the withholding of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee) dues by the Central government a major political issue.

TMC has already organized protests led by Abhishek Banerjee along with the party MPs, MLAs, Ministers, and MGNREGA workers at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, which was followed by a five-day sit-in. On the other hand, the involvement of three TMC leaders in the sexploitation of Dalit Hindu women in Sandeshkhali village of 24 North Parganas will adversely affect the ruling party in a big way. Furthermore, some TMC leaders have resorted to land encroachments as they consider themselves to be above the law of the state. Hitherto, the TMC criminals had ruled the roost, unquestioned.

Meanwhile, Muslim-majority regions in West Bengal are characterized by massive ill-treatment of Hindus to which the police turn a blind eye because the state’s Home Ministry protects the wrong-doers and criminals of the so-called minority community. The entire female electorate and the Bhadralok (intellectual class) are enraged as the crimes in Sandeshkhali and the human rights violations against the Hindu population in Muslim-majority border districts went unheeded for long.

Lately, with the support of local BJP leaders, Governor CK Ananda Bose, and Hindu activist groups, women in the state have successfully organized protests against their tormentors and assailants. This is going to cost the TMC heavily in the upcoming polls. As a consequence, the BJP will win a majority of seats in Bengal’s urban heartland.

CAA and Matua tribes

In Bongoan, Cooch Behar, Nadia, Howrah, Malda, Siliguri, East Burdwan, and other places of north Bengal, where the Matua settlers (Dalit Hindus who relocated from Bangladesh) reside, the implementation of CAA this year is going to be a game changer as it will bring a significant number of votes in favour of the BJP.

Narendra Modi visiting the Matua Thakurbari Temple in Orakandi during his visit to Bangladesh was a signal of reassurance to the Matua community that he would support their cause. Furthermore, voters choosing ‘Raam’ instead of ‘Vaam’ (Left) is going to benefit the BJP in a big way.

However, to conduct free and fair polls in the Southeast and other border districts of Bengal, the Central government must ensure the deployment of adequate CRPF personnel and Paramilitary forces. Not only the polling stations but entire regions need to be under CRPF protection so that voters can safely reach the polling booths and cast their votes.

In many places, the polling booths may be well-secured and there may be no untoward incidents or violence but voters are likely to be prevented from reaching the polling booths by TMC goons, and their votes may be cast by impersonators. Chances of such fraudulent voting are high in Muslim-majority areas where law enforcement is inadequate.

So, ensuring that actual voters get to cast votes is essential for BJP’s victory. In conclusion, the 2024 General Elections in West Bengal will witness a strong contest with both the BJP and the TMC vying for supremacy. While prepoll predictions suggest a favourable outcome for the BJP, the final result remains uncertain, contingent on various factors including voter turnout, campaign strategies, and the resolution of key issues affecting the electorate.

(The article Will BJP secure more seats than TMC in West Bengal in 2024 General Elections? published in ‘Organiser’)

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