A strong regional leadership, deeper connect with the masses and deliverance of welfare benefits form the key ingredients of a perfect recipe to win public mandate. This has been proved once again in the latest round of Assembly elections held in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Mamata Banerjee and Pinarayi Vijayan led their parties in West Bengal and Kerala, respectively, to resounding victories on the strength of their personal image and implementation of well-targeted welfare schemes on the ground. The day truly belonged to Mamata, a star performer who steered the Trinamool Congress to a hat-trick win in a bitterly fought poll battle and successfully halted the march of an aggressive BJP. Winning the mandate for a third term in a row is by itself a big achievement. But, what is more commendable about her electoral performance is that she took on the mighty electoral war machine of the saffron party and its indefatigable campaigner Narendra Modi. Despite the nationwide surge in the Covid-19 cases and a raging health crisis, the Modi-Shah combine invested all their energies in the high-octane campaign in West Bengal and criss-crossed the State, determined to defeat the TMC. Though the BJP made significant gains, compared with the previous Assembly polls, almost all those seats came from areas that were previously the bastions of the Left and the Congress. On her part, Mamata has retained dominance in her party’s traditional strongholds. The back-to-back victory of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala, the first time for an incumbent in four decades, carries an important message that sustained focus on performance and development pays dividends.
It is time the BJP realised that its reliance on Modi magic will not work all the time and that the people vote differently in a State election. The setback for the saffron party in West Bengal, where it hedged its bets on polarisation gambit, is expected to provide ammunition for the opposition parties to sharpen their attack on the Centre for its inept handling of the pandemic. The call for greater mobilisation of like-minded regional parties to take on the BJP-led NDA is also likely to gain momentum in the months ahead. The BJP can, however, take comfort in the fact that it could retain Assam, make modest gains in Kerala and emerge as the only formidable opposition party in West Bengal while its alliance wrested Puducherry from the Congress. The biggest loser in the present round of polls has been the Congress which lost power in Puducherry, failed to consolidate on the gains it had made in Kerala in the previous Lok Sabha polls, suffered heavy erosion in Assam despite forging strong alliances and tasted a total rout in West Bengal.
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