Bharatiya Janata Party has developed a knack to score goal(s) in the dying minute of the match—in 89th or 90th minute or in injury time. Be it the 2019 Lok Sabha election or the 2020 Assembly poll in Bihar, it was till very late that many political pundits were not sure that ruling BJP would win them. But finally, the party or its alliance emerged victorious.
No doubt the opposition parties cried foul and complained about bad refereeing as the goal, according to them, was scored by the player (captain) who was off-side.
For instance, the BJP lost Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in December 2018. After that rout many independent analysts started predicting that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance may not even get 200 seats in the Lok Sabha poll to be held in April-May 2019. Even some apologists of the BJP would in private hold the same view. This situation continued till February 14, 2019 Pulwama attack on the CRPF convoy. Within matter of weeks the whole situation turned favourable for the BJP. Ironically, the BJP did very well in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh too where it won the Assembly election just four months earlier.
In Bihar, though some journalists, during the high-time of corona virus between April and September last year felt that notwithstanding total failure in providing succour to migrant labourers, the Nitish Kumar government may return to power. But the moment the electioneering started on October 15 and Tejashwi Prasad Yadav of RJD started mobilising huge crowds the public opinion makers changed their stand. In the same way, a majority of Exit Polls on November 7 predicted victory to the RJD-led Grand Alliance.
One of them gave the opposition Grand Alliance 180 seats in the House of 243. But the final result on November 10 went in favour of the NDA and Grand Alliance could get 110 seats.
An analysis of the three phases of polls in Bihar showed that the Grand Alliance did very well in the first phase in which 70-odd seats went to poll. By the second and third phase the scenario changed. The BJP did much better in those seats of Seemanchal and Mithilanchal regions of Bihar, which have strong Muslim presence and went to poll in the third phase. This was largely due to polarisation caused by the saffron party as well as the counter-polarisation, for which the presence of All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen candidates was, to much extent, responsible. The provocative speeches of its leader Asaduddin Owaisi added fuel to the flame.
In West Bengal, notwithstanding so much ferocious campaigning, the victory of Trinamool Congress was a foregone conclusion till the third week of March. Most Opinion Polls gave a clear edge to chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But by the fourth week of the month, that is after the March 26-27 trip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh the scenario started changing.
Apparently, the visit to Bangladesh on the occasion of its 50th year of creation was not going to be politically beneficial for the BJP. In contrast, Modi had to shower praise on the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whom he had always criticised.
It was the pilgrimage to Orakandi on the second day of the stay in Bangladesh, which is likely to pay off. He offered prayer in the shrine of Harichand Thakur, the founder of Matua sect in mid-19th century. Matuas are Scheduled Castes having about 16-17 per cent of West Bengal’s population. The number of Matuas living in Bangladesh is estimated to be about 1.5 crore–two-thirds of Hindus living in that country come from this community. So, by addressing Matuas of Bangladesh on the day election was going in West Bengal Modi managed to rightly connect with their brothers and sisters here.
Besides, the widespread and violent protest in Bangladesh by the opposition parties who strongly condemned the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens, may work in favour of the BJP in West Bengal, where all out efforts were already on to polarise the society. Suvendhu Adhikari, whose entire family owes its rise to Mamata Didi, suddenly started calling her Mamata Begum.
The manner in which the Trinamool Congress protested to Modi’s trip to the temple of Matuas in Bangladesh, exposed the party’s lack of confidence. It suggested that the TMC has lost control over the Matua votes though she had done much for this community in the last one decade. It needs to be mentioned that of all the persons, Modi took Shantanu Thakur, the party MP belonging to Matua caste, to Bangladesh. In fact, the BJP was planning to make him candidate from Gaighata Assembly seat this time but Shantanu refused the offer. Instead, his brother Subrata Thakur was made the candidate.
It would be too early to jump to the conclusion that the BJP is going to win the election in West Bengal, but it has certainly scored a point when it comes to the battle of perception.
But one thing which had got less media coverage is that the same tactic proved counter-productive in Assam. The party is on the backfoot on the issue of CAA and the whole exercise of polarising the society on religious lines is not yielding result.
Many political pundits are of the view that the team wearing saffron jersey is in the process of scoring self-goal.