In Bengal Bypolls, Mamata Banerjee's Party Wins But BJP Makes Biggest Gain

Bengal By-Election Result: For the BJP, it is a re-assertion of party chief Amit Shah's claim that it is now the state's main opposition party.


Bengal Bypolls Result: Trinamool Congress has attributed BJP's surge to the Left's decline (File)

Kolkata:  Mamata Banerjee's ruling Trinamool Congress made short work of bye-elections in West Bengal today, snatching the Noapara Assembly seat from the Congress and retaining the Uluberia parliamentary constituency. The BJP has kept up its recent good run in the state and is second in both. The Congress, celebrating a comeback in Rajasthan, is in the deepest dumps ever in Bengal, coming fourth today and losing its deposit in both seats. 

In the Uluberia seat, which fell vacant after the death of Trinamool MP Sultan Ahmed, his wife Sadja Ahmed has sailed through, defeating BJP by over 4.5 lakh votes. The Congress had come fourth in the 2014 parliament elections too, but with 67,826 votes. This time it could win only 23,168 votes.

The BJP received 1,37,137 or 11.56 per cent of the votes in 2014. This time it has got 2,93,018 or 23.29 per cent of the votes. It is a significant jump of 12 per cent votes. Trinamool's vote share also rose by 13 per cent.  

In Noapara, one of 44 assembly seats the Congress had won in the 2016 state elections, it could win only 10,527 votes. The vote margin between winner Trinamool Congress and runners-up BJP was 63,018.   

For the BJP, it is a re-assertion of party chief Amit Shah's claim that it is now the state's main opposition party. Last year, it came second in a bye-election for the Kanthi South assembly seat and in 2016, at the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat. Amit Shah has set his party, for many years a minor player in Bengal, the target of winning the most parliament seats in next year's national election and wresting power from the Trinamool in the 2021 assembly elections.  

The Trinamool's Partha Chatterjee has attributed the BJP's surge to the Left's decline. "No one has been able to touch the Trinamool. If the BJP has got more votes, it's because CPM and Congress voters decided to not waste their votes and gave them to the BJP instead," he said. 

The Congress had won Noapara two years ago by a slim margin of just over 1000 votes. But at that time it had a seat understanding with the Left, which made it a triangular fight with the Trinamool and the BJP. This time, the Left and Congress fought separately, splitting votes four ways. The Trinamool benefited.

The CPM has recently ruled out, strongly, any kind of electoral understanding with the Congress in the future. With votes split in four, the emergence of the BJP as number two is seen as a foregone conclusion.

In Uluberia, some political observers said, the BJP's improved performance is because of polarisation of voters. Mamata Banerjee is seen as appeasing Muslims, which has made Hindu voters jittery. Observers say their votes are not necessarily pro-BJP but definitely anti-Trinamool. 

Uluberia has seen strong communal polarisation since 2014. There was huge communal tensions in February 2017 in Tehatta town over Saraswati Puja not being allowed to be held in a government school which had not permitted Prophet Mohammad's birth anniversary to be observed.

In the neighboring constituency of Howrah, Dhulagarh saw a serious communal flare-up in December 2016.

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