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West Bengal civic polls sound death knell for Left, Congress as BJP eats into their votebank

The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) has swept the West Bengal civic polls by winning 140 of the 148 wards. The six wards that BJP won was a big surprise, as with it the party has emerged as the principal Opposition. But the worst thing to happen was that with the Left and Congress. Both parties, who had ruled the state at one point, scored big zeroes. It finally seems to be an end for both the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress in West Bengal politics.

Once known as the ‘red bastion’, today, West Bengal has virtually become ‘Left-free’ (Baam-mukto) despite the fact that the Left had ruled the state for long 34 years. Right from Assembly elections to panchayat polls, the Left had dominated West Bengal prior to 2011 when it was ousted by TMC.

However, as a face saver, the Forward Bloc, an ally of the Left Front, managed to win a single ward. That TMC swept the municipal election ahead of the crucial 2018 Panchayat election in the state wasn’t a big surprise as the ruling party had demonstrated its prowess in the 2016 Assembly election in which the Mamata Banerjee-led party bagged 211 seats out of 294 (total 295 seats) it had contested. Despite forming an alliance, Congress won 44 while the Left Front a meagre 32.

As for Congress, the party is out of the race in West Bengal because 1977 was the last time when West Bengal had a Congress chief minister in Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The CPM-led Left Front ruled the state for the next 34 years. But instead of reviving itself, Congress continued to decline. Even the Left-Congress alliance during the 2016 Assembly polls have proved proved disastrous for both.

According to political analysts, over the past year, BJP has managed to turn adversity into advantage. The saffron party had won three seats on its own in 2016. This is its highest tally of seats in West Bengal since 1952 when its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, won nine seats. Steadily, the BJP has been making inroads into the grassroots of Bengal. Congress and even the CPM party workers have shifted their allegiance to BJP. The trend is quite similar to Kerala for instance, where a large number of CPM workers shifted to RSS and then BJP.

“BJP is eating into the space of Left and Congress. Their voters’ base is steadily increasing especially in this part of Bengal,” said Partha Pratim Choudhury from Jalpaiguri. The BJP has won four wards in Jalpaiguri district in North Bengal.

The latest result has baffled analysts as well as they have failed to explain how could a party, how a party which led the state for three decades could end up with not a single win.

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