West Bengal Opinion/Exit polls: an Independent Analysis

·       TMC is losing close to 58 seats

·       Left-Congress combine might garner 164 seats and form the next Government

·       BJP loses relevance in Bengal

·       It is a win-win situation for CPM/Left

·       Muslims shifting away from Mamata

·       Maoists turn hostile against TMC

·       Small farmers slowly come back to the Left

·       Mamata-Modi terror forcing analysts to lie/stay quiet about possible results


National Picture: BJP Whittling Down?

With 5 phases of 2016 Bengal assembly polls over, opinion-exit polls, conducted by this author, reveal a startling picture: defying all odds, the Left Front is in the midst of a strong, electoral revival; if things proceed in the manner elucidated, the Left, in association with Congress, might well be heading towards Government formation. 

Poll analysts and opinion polls have already predicted a Left front sweep in Kerala. BJP will not make any gains in Tamil Nadu or Pondicherry. In Assam, BJP’s chances are real but slim: if Assam opinion polls are to be believed, Congress and BJP are neck to neck with Badruddin Ajmal’s UDF emerging as a possible `King-maker’.

Overall, BJP’s chances in elections to 5 states are poor; in all probability, 2016 will be seen as the year when the NDA Government scored nil in political battles.

`Party of the Future’

But the electoral whittling down of the Right-wing BJP in 2016 is just one aspect of the picture. The other, is the rise of the Left in Bengal, where after the 2011 electoral defeat, CPM, CPI and their allies were written off as a spent force and Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool Congress was projected as the `party of the future’, which would end `Left instilled misery’ in Bengal.

In 2011, rightists across the political spectrum saw Mamata as a `savior’; some elements called her Bengal’s `new Left’! Mamata was easily given at least 10 years, or even 15-20, in power.

In 2014, even Narendra Modi was hailed as an irrepressible force that would end Congress, finish the opposition and rule unchallenged for 15 years.

However, after suffering crippling defeats in Delhi and Bihar, and blowbacks from  the growing movements against not just the government but the system as such—involving peasant castes like Patels and Jats, students and Dalits, traders and army veterans—wild assessments about Modi have adopted a decidedly, low-key tone.

Party of Lumpens…and Politics of Betrayal?

But Mamata’s story in Bengal is different. The Bengal CM won Panchayat elections and was able to give the impression that there was no hope for the Left till she was around. After using Maoists in the run up to, and during, 2011 elections, she was able to kill a major Maoist commander. The act amounted blatantly, to a political betrayal but there was little apparent backlash. Her goons had also been on the rampage, attacking both CPM and Congress—she was deemed to have weathered corruption/nepotism charges, as well as accusations that she did little to boost Bengal’s economy.

Even till late 2015-early 2016, Mamata was considered `invincible’.

West Bengal: Deeper Political Currents

But there was obviously, a deeper current alive in Bengal that analysts missed; in 2011, the CPM was reduced to 40 seats, and the Left Front to 61; Mamata had got 184—and her front with Congress 227 seats—out of a total 294 Bengal assembly figure.

Logically, as per statistics, the Left was decimated—parties take years to emerge from this kind of political drubbing.  

Yet, several Bengal opinion polls, which are not even remotely sympathetic to the Left, are already giving the new Congress plus Left alliance more than 115 seats. From a high of 184, Mamata is being projected as touching a low 155 plus-minus figure.

Surely, things have changed in Bengal. More importantly, the big picture has not yet been captured by opinion polls.

Bengal: The 2011 scenario

In 2011, Mamata had finished CPM in South Bengal, the area where Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh are located. If one sees the electoral map of 2011, Hoogly, Howrah, Calcutta, South Nadia, East Mednipur, North and South 24 Parganas show an almost clean Mamata sweep. The Left was not able reach double figures here. The other pro-Mamata belt was Bankura-Purulia continuum.

In North Bengal, beginning from Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Cooch-Behar, then coming down to North and South Dinajpur, followed by the Murshidabad-Birbhum belt, then Burdwan and north Nadia in central Bengal, the Left did poorly but was not wiped out. In fact, in areas like Burdwan, where operation Barga’s recording of the rights of sharecropper-tenants has been the maximum, the CPM-Left Front was successful in winning quite a number of seats.  

Mamata did best in tribal areas, constituencies with high population density and low landholding acreage per household, coupled a strong Muslim base, and cities teeming with the lumpen proletariat.

The Congress Factor

In fact, in 2011, Congress, which was then in alliance with Mamata, performed well in North Bengal, the area where Bengal’s Muslim population is highly concentrated; overall, Congress won 42 seats and 9 percent of the popular vote.

The Left still polled 38% of the vote in 2011; Mamata too got 38%; it was her alliance with Congress that gave her the edge.

Congress’ North Bengal vote was not specific to the party’s alliance with Mamata; in Bengal, Congress performed well consistently, even after Mamata’s departure.

Imagine now, with Congress allying with the Left, the situation reaches its exact opposite—logically, Left plus Congress stand to poll 47% of the vote, leaving Mamata high and dry with 38% and much behind in the first past the post system!

But politics is not a cent per cent logical game; so let’s assume Mamata’s vote share has increased—even the most pro-TMC/optimistic analysts give her a 3-4% vote enhancement. This when it is clear that in exchange for 4-5 seats, BJP has decided to shift its vote share to the TMC. Also, Modi has pumped in money and socio-political influence to divide Muslim votes between the two main formations.

Still, Mamata hovers around 42%; 2011 was Left’s worst performance—and, contrary to facts, we are assuming that in 2016 the Left’s vote percentage stays the same, and Congress loses say, 3%; even in this scenario, the Congress-Left combine achieve an enviable 45%, at least 3% above Mamata!

This is so obvious…and yet no one has dared yet, to point it out; is such the terror of Modi and Mamata?                        

The Muslim Aspect

Muslims form, 27% of Bengal’s population; spread all over the State, Muslims have played a major part in Bengal politics; in 2011, it was the Muslim shift that cost the Left dearly; in 2016, it appears on the face of it that Muslims are voting for Mamata; but the Left and Congress are retaining their forces in the community; as such, even if the Muslim vote pattern stays the same as 2011 with minor variations, the Left-Congress combine would still stay ahead; if even 10-20% Muslims who voted for Mamata in 2011 vote for the Left-Congress combine, the latter will sweep the polls.

Whither the Maoists?   

After Kishenji’s killing, Bengal Maoists, who organized the Lalgarh uprising and played a major role in Mamata winning comprehensively in 2011, have been strangely quiet; but results of Panchayat polls and other political indications in the extreme South and Western portions of Bengal—wherein lies the Maoist base—show that despite passivity, Bengal Maoists have exhibited their hostility towards Mamata. This will again feed into the Left-Congress surge.   

Bengal Assembly polls: 2011 (statistics) and 2016 (projections)

It was the shifting of poor and marginal farmers away from CPM in South Bengal that thrust Mamata into power. Now, it is the slow coming back of the same sections to the Left fold that is changing the Bengal scenario with such rapidity that even Mamata, BJP, or in some cases the Left, is being caught off-guard.

Here is an area wise analysis of Bengal districts—care has been taken not to take Left Front and Congress as a `front’ in terms of seats; that way it is easier to reach the bigger picture. Also, with the same calculation in mind, seats accruing to BJP and other marginal players have not been counted…    

1.     District: Darjeeling   Seats: 6

2011 results: Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM)-3, Indian National Congress (INC)-2, All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC)-1

2016 projections: GJM-3, INC-3

2.     District: Jalpaiguri    Seats: 7

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-2, AITMC-2, Congress-2, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP-Left Front)-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-3, INC-3, RSP (Left Front)-1

3.      District: Cooch-Behar   Seats: 9

2011 results: All India Forward Bloc (AIBC-Left Front)-4, AITMC-4, INC-1

2016 projections: AIFB (Left Front)-4, AITMC-2, INC-3

4.     District: Uttar Dinajpur    Seats: 9

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-1, AIFB (Left Front)-2, INC-3, AITMC-2, Independent-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-2, AIFB (Left Front)-1, INC-4, AITMC-2

5.     District: Dakshin Dinajpur   Seats: 6

2011 results:  RSP (Left Front)-1, AITMC-5

2016 projections: RSP (Left Front)-2, AITMC-4

6.     District: Malda   Seats: 12

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-1, RSP (Left Front)-1, AIFB (Left Front)-1, INC-8, AITMC-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-1, RSP (Left Front)-1, AIFB-1, INC-9

7.     District: Murshidabad   Seats: 22

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-5, RSP (Left Front)-1, INC-15, Samajwadi Party-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-5, RSP (Left Front)-2, INC-16

8.     District: Birbhum   Seats: 11

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-2, RSP (Left Front)-1, AITMC-6, INC-2

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-3, RSP (Left Front)-1, AITMC-4, INC-3

9.     District: Burdwan   Seats: 25

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-8, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-15, INC-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-12, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-10, INC-2

10.      District: Nadia     Seats: 17

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-3, AITMC-13, INC-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-6, AITMC-10, INC-1

11.      District: Bankura      Seats: 12

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-3, AITMC-8, INC-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-5, AITMC-6, INC-1

12.         District: Purulia   Seats: 9

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-1, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-5, INC-2

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-2, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-4, INC-2

13. District: Hooghly  Seats: 18

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-1, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-16

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-5, AIFB (Left Front)-1, AITMC-12

14.  District: Howrah    Seats: 16

2011 results: Left Front-0, AITMC-15, INC-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-4, AITMC-11, INC-1

15.      District: North 24 Parganas    Seats: 33

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-3, AITMC-28, INC-1, BJP-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-10, AITMC-19, INC-2

16.    District: South 24 Parganas    Seats: 31

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-2, RSP (Left Front)-1, Socialist Unity Party Center (SUCI-Left Front)-1, AITMC-27

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-11, RSP (Left Front)-1, SUCI (Left Front)-1, AITMC-18

17.      District: Paschim Mednipur      Seats: 19

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-8, CPI (Left Front)-1, AITMC-8, INC-1, Democratic Socialist Party-1

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-11, CPI (Left Front)-1, AITMC-5, INC-2

18.   District: Purbi Mednipur   Seats: 16

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-0, AITMC-16

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-5, AITMC-11

19.   District: Kolakata  Seats: 11

2011 results: CPM (Left Front)-0, AITMC-11

2016 projections: CPM (Left Front)-4, AITMC-7  

20.    District: Alipurduar(formed in 2014)    Seats: 5

2016 projections: CPM-2, INC-2, AITMC-1

Total   Seats: 294

2011: Left Front-62, AITMC-184, INC-42

2016 (projections): Left Front-110, AITMC-126, INC-54

So despite TMC getting more seats and maybe, votes, than the Left Front, its isolation/lack of alliance with Congress makes it lose 58 seats to be precise, of course plus-minus 5 or 6; Left Front gains 48 seats by the same logic; while Congress marks an increase of 12 seats from 2011…

BJP’s shifting of votes does not exceed 2-3% by any standards; the party loses more than it gains by backing Mamata…

Going thus, by conservative reasoning, Left Front-Congress might get 164; AITMC gets clogged at 126…

What if the Left Front increases its vote share by even 2-3%...and Congress maintains its 9% vote share…the Left Front-Congress combine would garner nearly 50% of the vote …and sweep two-thirds of Bengal!

The only exception to this rule would be massive rigging…or a deal…well…you never know…but even here, in the unlikely event of a TMC victory, the CPM and Left Front would gain seats and perform better 2011…

For the CPM and the Left, 2016 Bengal polls embody a massive shot in the arm…an almost win-win situation; much credit is due to the new leadership represented by Surya Kant Mishra and leaders like Md. Saleem…either way, Bengal is heading towards a major shakedown…and this is bound to impact national politics tremendously…   


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