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

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Political Stability in West Bengal

Prosperity or Decay?

The conventional belief indicates that the gradual success of an incumbent party lies in the economic progression of the state and the well-being of the majority of voters. However, the recent growth of the incumbent party in West Bengal does not support the belief entirely. A marginal improvement of agriculture and rural people, relying on the delivery of welfare schemes at the cost of overall growth (including industrial and service sectors), reveals a redistribute strategy employed by the state in the federal setting. This compels the dependency of low-income people on minuscule resources in the absence of modern sector growth along with building an organisation of cadres, mushroomed under the shadow of welfare schemes, to deliver those services among the networks against the agency fees and commission, worked effectively to engineer the popularity and helped to extinguish the unrest among the non-beneficiaries. This paper unfolds evidence in support of such a strategy that helped maintain incumbency.

In the 2021 state assembly elections held in West Bengal, the incumbent political party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), came into power with an absolute majority for the third consecutive ocassion. Out of the 294 seats in the state assembly, TMC won 213 seats with a commendable rise in the vote share at an all-time high of 47.9%. This is not the first time that the TMC’s vote share has increased. Since the party came to power in 2011, its vote share has increased in all the elections (state assembly elections and general elections), except in the 2019 general elections, when the party’s vote share declined marginally (Figure 1, p 122). Some of the scholars (Ghatak 2021) believed that the rise of rural consumption, a measure of welfare improvement of the poor, helped to gain votes for the ruling party. But, this happened despite an extremely poor political image created by the incumbent party due to the alleged involvement of TMC leaders in several corruption cases (for example, Saradha chit fund scam and Narada bribery case).

For example, the Narada bribery case came out just before the 2016 assembly elections. It is currently being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the direction of the Kolkata High Court. Many leaders of the incumbent party have been seen taking bribes on camera in exchange for providing benefits to businesspersons. Ghatak’s argument relies on the median voter theory. According to the theory, such gradual progress of political strength of the incumbent party seems to indicate that the economic conditions of the state and the well-being of the majority of voters must have been continuously rising. But, if the state economy does not reveal the signs of such economic progress for the entire decade, this conjecture can be contested. What then are the reasons behind the progress of the vote share? Against this stunning political performance, one is curious to investigate the reasons behind such a political upsurge.

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Updated On : 20th Jul, 2022
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