ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Stalemate in Bengal?

For the first time in close to three decades, the Left Front finds itself on the defensive in West Bengal.

For the past three decades West Bengal has been, perhaps, the easiest one to call in the assembly and Parliament elections. In the Lok Sabha polls, there have been minor variations in seat and vote share, but the stranglehold of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front (LF) has not been loosened after 1977 when it formed a state government with a large majority. The best that the opposition has been able to do was perhaps in 1984 when the Congress, strengthened by a sympathy wave after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, managed to win 16 of West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats on the basis of a 48% vote share. Even though in the parliamentary elections of 1998 and 1999, the vote share of the combined opposition (the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party) touched 50%, they never managed to unite the anti-LF votes and pose a serious challenge to the LF.

The 2004 Lok Sabha elections actually saw a 3 percentage point rise in the vote share of the CPI(M), with the LF getting more than half the votes polled. Parallel to this was the precipitous fall in the vote share of the three main opposition parties, which totalled only about 43%. This was partly due to the fact that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool went with the BJP as part of t he Nat ional Democrat ic Alliance, rat her t han wit h t he Congress. Yet, two years later, during the state’s legislative assembly election – held under unprecedented security to neutralise the CPI(M)’s alleged “scientific rigging” – the opposition actually witnessed a marginal decline in its vote share, laying to rest this bogey of a fixed election.

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