- Trinamool ahead in 22 of the state's 42 seats; BJP is ahead in 18
- Analysts read the results in Bengal as the "Left turning right"
- Voting in Bengal saw clashes between BJP and Trinamool supporters
Bengal is seeing a saffron surge as the BJP raced towards an impressive score, closing the gap fast with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress as votes are counted for the national election on Thursday. The Trinamool is ahead in 22 of the state's 42 seats; BJP is ahead in 18.
Mamata Banerjee has conceded much ground to the BJP in the state she has ruled since 2012. The BJP's performance shows the party has been able to make inroads in the state over the past few years.
Analysts read the results in Bengal as the "Left turning right".
It is the BJP, not the Trinamool, that has benefited from the Left, which lost power in the state in 2012 after three decades of power; the Left's vote share of 30 per cent has transferred to the BJP, analysts say.
In 2014, the BJP had won just two seats in the state. Since then, the party campaigned hard in what appeared to be an unbreachable Trinamool fortress.
Over the past two years, the BJP's efforts on the ground saw multiple confrontations with the state government, especially over rallies and marches held on religious events, and chants of "Jai Shri Ram" competing with the traditional "Ma Durga".
With an increased tally in the state, the BJP is expected to dial up its campaign to take Bengal in the 2021 assembly polls. This evening, addressing BJP workers after the party's big win in the national election, BJP president Amit Shah said, "Today's result shows that BJP will form a state government in West Bengal."
The Chief Minister is accused by her critics letting many voters slip out her grasp with her "pro-minority" policies and with her poor control over unruly elements in her party, who were accused of poll violence and rigging.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Shah addressed the maximum number of rallies in Bengal. While PM Modi dubbed the Chief Minister as "speed-breaker didi", Mamata Banerjee retaliated by calling him "Expiry Babu", implying that his government was past its expiry date.
Every phase of voting in Bengal saw clashes and street battles between the BJP and Trinamool.
"Mamata Banerjee fights and we contest elections. The results show that we should not fight in politics," said the BJP's Kailash Vijayabvargiya, who led the BJP's Bengal campaign.
Mamata Banerjee has accused the BJP of resorting to violence and even vote-rigging to raise its tally in Bengal.
"The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machine) through this gossip. I appeal to all opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together," the Chief Minister had posted on exit polls on Sunday.