Kolkata: BJP has made huge strides in West Bengal by garnering 18 seats, 16 more than it had won in the 2014 polls, thereby breaching the once Left-ruled bastion and now the TMC citadel. Fortress Bengal was considered invincible. So in the run-up to 2019, when BJP president Amit Shah said his party would win 23 of 42 seats in West Bengal, few took him seriously. But Shah and his lieutenants, party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and joint general secretary Shiv Prakash, kept chipping away before the BJP launched its final onslaught, breaching the Trinamool Congress citadel and making deep inroads.
The ruling TMC has won 22 out of 42 seats, Congress, on the other hand, managed to win just two seats while Left parties drew a blank. For BJP the star winners were - Babul Supriyo (Asansol), Arjun Singh (Barrackpore), SS Ahluwalia (Burdwan-Durgapur), Locket Chatterjee (Hooghly) and Dilip Ghosh (Medinipur). Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee (TMC) retained his Diamond Harbour seat, defeating his BJP rival Nilanjan Roy by 3,20,594 votes. Other TMC candidates who won from their respective seats were Sougata Roy (Dum Dum), Satabdi Roy (Birbhum), Sunil Kumar Mondal (Bardhaman Purba), Mimi Chakraborty (Jadavpur) and Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Kolkata North). Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury defeated TMC's Apurba Sarkar by 80,696 votes.
The shock and dismay was greater in the TMC, its cadres coming to terms with the BJP penetration into their home turf. The electioneering too was rhetoric with both the parties launching personal attacks against each other. During the campaigning, Banerjee had repeatedly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him as "expiry babu" and "liar." BJP had hit back at Banerjee, accusing her of "murdering" democracy in the state. The Prime Minister had dubbed the TMC supremo as "speed breaker Didi" for allegedly stalling development.
The Election Commission had curtailed campaigning by a day ahead of the May 19 elections in nine constituencies in the state after violence marred Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata on May 14. The political violence that rocked the state during the polls was not witnessed elsewhere in the country. A bust of iconic social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalized at a college named after him.
For the BJP, winning Bengal was more an ideological dream than an electoral victory. Both Shah and Prime Minister Modi devoted a major part of their campaign time to Bengal. They addressed 15 rallies each in the state. Both sought to take advantage of the “disenchantment” among Hindus over the growing population of Muslim migrants, a “threat” to the state’s development and security.
Aware of what the BJP was up to, the TMC chief tried to introduce her own version of the Hindutva narrative, one that invoked the culture and traditions unique to the state - from blowing conch shells to invoking Ma Durga to targeting the BJP over tax notices sent to community puja clubs in Kolkata, and the chanting of mantras.
BJP started working in Bengal ever since it was swept to power in 2014. Vijayvargiya and Shiv Prakash were sent to oversee party efforts in the state in 2015. Both the leaders worked on social combinations, resolved internal issues within the organisation and scouted for the right people to work on the ground. The growth was meteoric. From 452 mandal committees in 2015, it went up to 1,280. In four years, it was ready with 12,407 shakti kendra, 10,266 shakti kendra pramukhs and 58,084 committees. The state was divided into five segments for managing the Lok Sabha constituencies.