Oh Didi

ELECTION results in the four states and one union territory have gone along both expected lines and contrary to expectations. Perhaps nowhere more so than in West Bengal where the BJP had deployed its vaunted electoral machinery to dislodge the redoubtable Mamata Banerjee, the leader of Trinamool Congress Party, that finally carried the day. Despite losing Nandigram, Banerjee led her party to one of its biggest political victories in the past three decades by halting the BJP juggernaut. This is her third successive win. The loss in the important state is a serious setback for the BJP currently battling a serious backlash due mainly to its shoddy response to the virulent second Covid-19 wave which has led to record infections and deaths across the country. Top BJP leaders including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the home minister Amit Shah had campaigned vigorously in the state holding several public meetings and road shows.

This is so far the biggest victory of the Trinamool Congress with over 48 % of all votes polled. In the 2016 Assembly polls, the percentage of votes polled by the party was about 44.9%. The TMC has a strong cadre and has been in power since the last ten years. The party certainly was facing some anti-incumbency issues but it didn't mean that the party was on a weaker wicket.

However, the significance of the Bengal election is beyond the BJP-TMC rivalry. Its outcome is a profoundly important development. The TMC win is likely to arrest the disarray among the secular forces and give them confidence to stand up to the PM Modi in the upcoming state elections. This has once again underlined that only a broad secular front could confront the BJP with a credible challenge. As things stand, there is no dislodging the PM Modi yet. That is, if no credible political rival emerges from the shadows in the near future, a prospect for which looks bleak.

The likes of Nitish Kumar, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati who once showed signs of shaping up into credible national rivals have too paled into insignificance. The caste based parties in Uttar Pradesh who were only hope to stop Modi juggernaut have bitten the dust. And they are unlikely to recover from the beating they took in polls after polls. Modi's appeal has only grown stronger. The BJP under him has set itself up as a formidable force which won't be easy to beat. While the broader opposition is reeling from the abject defeat, the BJP is busy setting up its base in the states where it lacks the presence like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, even though it may still not be in a position to credibly challenge the local parties. Things can still turn around for the opposition and also for India if the opposition too develops a potent narrative that offers a persuasive alternative to the one being peddled by the BJP.

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