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Mamata Punctured Modi-Shah Juggernaut in Bengal

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By Suresh Unnithan

Thiruvananthapuram: The crushing electoral rout in Bengal was certainly a body blow to the hitherto politically invincible Modi-Shah combine. Despite deploying massive resources the mighty BJP was humbled, thanks to the lady leader by name Mamata Banerjee, affectionately addressed Didi in Bengal and elsewhere.

To bundle out Mamata and her Trinamool Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and his party in power at the Center had engaged every resource possible.  But the saffron brigade could not cage the “Bengal Tigress” and she confronted the rolling saffron juggernaut head-on to win with a thumbing majority to rule the state for a third successive term.

For the Prime Minister the Bengal battle was a personal prestige, so the defeat at the hands of Mamata could be very bitter for him.  In fact, Modi was readying his party, from as early as 2016, to capture the “gateway to East”. He had deputed his most trusted lieutenant, incumbent Union Home Minister, Amit Anilchandra Shah to accomplish “Mission Bengal” with an aggressive slogan “ab ki baar dosau par”, which means this time BJP will win above 200 seats in Bengal, out of the total 294.

“For Modi winning elections is above every priority and for that he can even resort to personal barrage”, says a senior political observer from Delhi who has been keenly watching Bengal election. “It was unbecoming of a Prime Minister to utter jibes like Didi Oh Didi to ridicule and demoralize a lady opponent.”  However, “the ever belligerent Mamata and her combative TMC army could make the hitherto unassailable Modi-Shah combine bite the dust”. But supremacy combine is invincible and proved that the Saffron juggernaut can be challenged even by single women with firm resolve.

Observers feel “Mamata should thank the BJP for her comprehensive electoral victory which even she herself would not have expected. The negative campaign of the saffron brigade benefitted her (Mamata).”  According to a senior scribe who covered the Bengal elections this time extensively belies “the personal attacks on Mamata by senior BJP leaders including Modi and Shah were not acceptable to voters in general and the women voters of Bengal in particular. The voters could not take kindly jibes against Mamata like Didi Oh Didi from Prime Minister. Such personal attacks created a strong apathy among women voters towards BJP.”

The saffron party’s overconfidence that the voters could be swayed by excessive media blitzkrieg and overdose of aggressive campaign also proved counterproductive in Bengal. “BJP was hoping to create a communal divide in their advantage by raking up issues like CAA, NRC and Minority appeasement through media discussions. But they miserably failed. These issues could alienate the minority votes in favour of TMC.”

Though the BJP finds solace in arguing that it’s “tally in West Bengal has risen from a mere 3 seats in 2016 to over 76 seats in 2021”, the political supremacy of the Modi-Shah combine has been punctured by  Didi marching  unchallenged, winning 211 seats out of 294. It is a fact, till the latest ignominious electoral disaster in Bengal the duo was progressing uncontested beyond all political boundaries across the country. But the two invincible Generals of the unconquerable saffron brigade had to meekly surrender to a lady warrior leading from front a political party “just confined to a corner state-West Bengal.”

A senior RSS worker who was part of the BJP’s campaigning team attributes the defeat to the failure in understanding the “ground reality and under currents. Initially we were largely carried away by the huge gathering present in the electoral rallies by Modi and Shah.  But it was too late when we knew that most of those chanting Jai Sriram, cheering Modi and other leaders were not from Bengali Speaking population.  They were migrants from the Hindi heartland.” He also admitted the “jibes like Didi Oh Didi and personal verbal attacks on Mamata alienated the majority women voters from the BJP.”

Another low profile BJP worker said “there was visible communal polarization, but it did not happen among the women. Moreover, due to religious overtone in BJP’s campaign even the neutral minority votes were gravitated to Mamata’s TMC and resulted in her landslide victory.”

The electoral debacle in Kerala has further augmented the worries of Modi-Shah combine, for both had dreamt to improve the tally to double figure and start their “Ashwamedham” in the South. But, thanks to the intense infighting within the party and poor campaigning strategy, the BJP had to concede even its lone seat at Nemam in Thiruvanathapuram to CPM.  Star party campaigners including Modi and Shah had addressed more than a dozen rallies in the state.  But the multicolor campaign could not impress the Kerala voters and the saffron party was reduced to Zero in terms of seats. The vote share also dwindled from 16 to 11% compare to 2016 Assembly elections.

The warning is loud and clear for the ruling BJP. Religious rhetoric, verbal attacks, sarcastic personal jibes against rivals may cheer up the crowd, but will not help to fetch popular vote. 

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