Elections

Mamata’s TMC Holds Bengal Fort, Wins 29 Of 42 seats

The BJP’s tally dropped from 18 to 12 and Congress’ from 2 to 1 as TMC gains

Sandipan Chatterjee
Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee celebrating after results on June 4, 2024 Photo: Sandipan Chatterjee
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) held its fort in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, maintaining the momentum of her 2021 assembly election victory. The party bagged 29 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats – seven more than their 2019 tally. 

Thanks to an increase of three percentage points in its vote share compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the TMC wrested six seats from the BJP and one from the Congress. 

Despite a high-pitched campaign against the state government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost one-third of its 2019 tally – reduced from 18 to 12 seats. 

Of the three junior Union ministers from the state in the outgoing government, junior home minister Nishith Pramanik and junior education minister Subhas Sarkar lost from Cooch Behar and Bankura, respectively. 

Junior shipping minister Shantanu Thakur held his bastion of Bongaon, where the Hindu refugee community of Matua-Namashudras dominates the demography. The BJP also retained the other Matua-dominated seat, Ranaghat.  

The Congress lost one of its two seats in the state with the defeat of Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who served as the leader of the Congress in the outgoing Lok Sabha. He represented the Baharampur constituency since 1999. 

It was a major victory for the TMC, as Chowdhury is one of TMC’s sharpest critics. Throughout the electoral campaign, the TMC dubbed Chowdhury a “BJP agent” and blamed him for the breakdown of the Congress-TMC alliance talks. In the end, former cricketer Yusuf Pathan of the TMC emerged as the giant killer in this closely fought triangular contest between the Congress, the TMC and the BJP. 

The third force in the state, the Left-Congress alliance, failed to make any mark but their votes played a key role in determining the winner in over half a dozen seats. CPI(M) state secretary Md Salim, who contested from Baharampur’s neighbouring Murshidabad seat, lost to the TMC incumbent by a margin of 1.6 lakh votes. 

While the TMC secured about 46 per cent vote share, the BJP’s share stood at about 39 per cent and the Left-Congress alliance’s at about 11 per cent. 

The TMC’s dominance is evident from the fact that of the party’s 29 seats, the winning margin was over one lakh votes in eight seats, over two lakh votes in two, over three lakh votes in two, over four lakh votes in one and seven lakh votes in one.

The TMC’s performance is significant, considering that the party and the government’s image took a beating due to a series of corruption charges – from the school recruitment scam to the ration scam – since its historic 2021 return to power for a third term. 

The party failed to retain the 48.5 per cent vote share of the 2021 assembly election but its share still stood significantly above the BJP’s. 

While the TMC always claimed to be part of the opposition INDIA bloc at the national level, it contested separately. After electoral trends became clear, Banerjee said her nephew Abhishek would attend the INDIA bloc’s meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. 

“I will try to see that Modi is out (of power) and INDIA is in,” she said. Abhishek Banerjee, the party’s all-India general secretary, won from Diamond Harbour with a massive margin of 7.1 lakh votes, the highest-ever victory margin in the state. 

The Banerjee Jr., who has been representing Diamond Harbour since 2014, is being considered one of the architects of the party’s impressive performance. 

“The results are a blow to PM Modi, Exit Poll conductors and political strategists like Prashant Kishor,” says Maidul Islam, a political scientist at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). 

While almost all Exit Polls had failed to read the Bengal pulse in 2021 and this time as well, Kishor was part of the TMC’s 2021 strategy but is no longer associated with the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), the political strategy firm that he helped found. The I-PAC is still working with the TMC but Kishor this time predicted that the BJP will improve its Bengal tally and likely emerge as the Number 1 party in the state.  

According to Islam, the TMC reaped the benefits of its consistent opposition to the BJP since 2014, as Bengal’s secular voters consolidated behind the party. 

“On the one hand, the Mamata Banerjee government’s welfare schemes connected with the people, while on the other the Modi government’s harassment and deprivation of the state acted against the BJP,” he tells Outlook.   

Among the high-profile seats, the TMC won Basirhat Lok Sabha by a margin of about 3.3 lakh votes. Basirhat hogged the headlines in the national media since January as Sandeshkhali is a part of the Lok Sabha. 

In Sandeshkhali, after a spontaneous mass agitation against the TMC’s highhandedness, the BJP alleged mass sexual harassment of local women by TMC leaders. However, a series of sting operation videos released in April and May prompted many to doubt the BJP’s narrative. 

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In Tamluk, the BJP’s high-profile candidate, Abhijit Gangopadhyay, won by over 70,000 votes. He is the Calcutta high court judge who first started ordering a series of investigations aginst recruitment irregularities in the state’s schools. He resigned from the judiciary ahead of the election and joined the BJP. 

According to several TMC leaders, Gangopadhyay joining the BJP helped the TMC, as the state’s ruling party’s allegation that the BJP was influencing a section of the judiciary found credence among the masses. 

“BJP retained Tamluk Lok Sabha but at the cost of blunting their own anti-corruption campaign,” said a senior TMC leader, unwilling to be named. 

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The BJP also retained the neighbouring Kanthi Lok Sabha. Both seats are in the East Midnapore district, the bastion of the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly. 

However, one major difference in this election from the 2021 assembly election was that in the Muslim-majority districts of Uttar Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad in north-Central Bengal – where Muslims consolidated behind the TMC in 2021 – a sharp split in Muslim votes between the TMC and the Left-Congress alliance helped the BJP retain Raiganj and Malda Uttar Lok Sabha seats.

Southern Bengal, however, saw Muslims voting predominantly for the TMC. 

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