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On PK’s Tweet About Bengal 2021 Polls

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In Bengal, something  unthinkable has  happened :  India’s leading poll strategist Mr  Prashant Kishor(PK) has now gone public  during an ongoing,  highly sensitive political assignment .
 He has come out with an electoral prediction  fir Bengal six months ahead of time !  His ultra sensitive  style of work   as head of the  expert IPAC team of  specialists/workers   who  help political parties to win elections in India  is well known. 
 Since  the 2019  Lok Sabha polls,   his  IPAC team  has been working for  the Trinamool Congress(TMC) in Bengal  ,  to help it win a third tenure in power.    
There can be no denying that in breaking the  first cardinal rule that research organisations follow—– never to comment on any ongoing project !—- Mr PK  has killed several birds with one stone.
 The Bengal-based media has seemingly concentrated on the obvious aspects of his tweet claiming that the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) will not win more than 100 seats ( its tally will remain in double digit figures) in the 2021 Assembly polls.
 Laying his reputation on the line, Mr. PK has further declared his intent to quit  his (political) space in case his prediction goes awry. 
Naturally TMC leaders and  their followers who control the local print/electronic media pretty effectively in Bengal,   welcomed   PK’s words and  have  highlighted them in their  pre-poll campaign rhetoric.
Kolkata-based observers find Mr PK’s words more intriguing on   a second, or third reading. He has not specifically said  anything really, regarding the BJP’s prospects. 
Between and including  10 and 99, all figures are double digit.  As of now, the BJP has won over 40% of the popular vote in the 2019 LS polls with 18 seats. The TMC won 22 seats out of 42, losing 12 from the tally of 2014, winning over 43% of the  aggregate vote.
Again assuming that each LS constituency covers on average 7 assembly segments, the BJP’s tally worked out at  around 126 seats  as against the  TMC’s  win in  154   assembly segments. Clearly, between 2014 and 2019, the anti incumbency factor has caught up with the TMC in a major way.
Given this backdrop, it is highly unlikely that  PK is looking at the lower end of the  road  spectrum  of figures beginning at 10 and ending at 99, in terms of the BJP’s seats in 2021.
  Thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic and the following Amphan cyclone devastation , it has been very difficult for the state Government to carry out minimum relief for  large segments of  the people with its   meagre resources  stretched to the limit. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Ministers have  admitted this publicly.
 As for PK’s own pre election pitch specially worked out to pep up the TMC’ spirits  on a very difficult wicket, the results have not been encouraging.  Mass contact programmes such ‘Didike bolo’, ‘Mamata Banglar garbo’  etc were launched with much fanfare, but then sank without trace.
 The reason :    poor response and a lack of resources for the TMC to fulfill the massive demands of the people.  The generally inept  performance of the state administration did not help either.
There has been little law and less order in Bengal in recent months .  Intra party violence within the TMC and its mass organsiations, between its senior members and younger members who accept only Mr, Abhishek Banerjee, the Chief Ministers’s celebrated high profile ‘nephew’, continues unabated.  
IPAC members found the ground situation  unsatisfactory and the public perception of TMC leaders at local levels in many districts  strongly negative. They were reduced to approaching local leaders from Left and Congress parties to find out whether they would fight on a TMC ticket in 2021. Such news could not be suppressed in the local press, further embarrassing the IPAC and its leader.
With steady defections to the BJP continuing, it is common knowledge that the Chief Minister, alarmed at the slide, called up PK to attend the important  core meet of TMC  leaders at Kalighat  on the night of Dec 13, 2020. TMC insiders say  she asked PK right out,’Just what is going on here?’  Earlier attempts in which Mr PK was personally involved, seeking to keep  the heavyweight TMC leader and Minister Suvendu Adhikary  within the party had failed. He joined the BJP with  several other MLAs , one MP and other lower level leaders.
Bottom line :  Not just alarm bells are ringing for the TMC,  but more importantly,  time is running out for Mr PK and his IPAC team. 
PK’s tweet is also revealing in that his double-edged prophecy will prove correct even if the BJP were to win, say between 90 and 99 seats in a house of 294. Such a  scenario may well see the CPI(M)-led Left parties recover some of their lost ground because of their consistent campaigning and sustained relief work for the people, despite the  TMC’s armed opposition.   
Also,neither PK nor the leader he reports to,  Mamata Banerjee have any idea of how many seats the Hyderabad-based AIMIM party will win in Bengal in 2021. Intelligence reports indicate a sizable following for the AIMIM in Dinajpur, Malda and Murshidabad  districts.
All pre election analyses  so far indicate that the TMC succeeded in 2019 LS polls in winning the maximum number of Muslim votes which it increased by 15%  since 2014.  On the other hand, it lost over 8% of Hindu voter support during the same period.
 For the  2021 Assembly polls,  a further consolidation of Hindu votes mainly supporting the BJP is currently under way. As for Muslim votes  a split  within the community in choosing between the TMC , the AIMIM and dissident leader Abbas Siddique in South Bengal looks inevitable.  
Then there is the factor of dissidence within the TMC. These dissidents even during the 2018 Panchayat elections which the TMC swept, not allowing opposition parties to contest over 35% seats, ended up winning 24% of the aggregate vote. It was second only to the TMC’s 44% vote share, and well above the BJP’s share of 17%. How much damage the TMC will face from its dissidents in  the 2021 polls ?
And the dissidents have made it amply clear they will not accept either Mr. Banerjee or Mr PK   as their leaders.  They swear to stand by Mamata Banerjee in public,  but only on their own terms. The first  prgramme in their agenda is : ‘End nepotism and outside interference within the TMC.’
Unfortunately that translates as ‘oppose Abhishek and throw out PK and his team’   in their  political parlance.  
No wonder Mr PK has somewhere in his message talked about ‘quitting’ space.  In case he has to quit a little earlier ahead of schedule, no one should be surprised, on present indications.
( Ashis Biswas is a regular columnist with Easternlink but his views in this Opinion piece are strictly his personal take)

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