The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are locked in a close contest for West Bengal’s 294 seats, exit polls showed on Thursday. Five out of seven polls gave chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s party an upper hand in the fiercely fought election battle, while the rest predicted that the BJP had an advantage.
2016 results: The TMC won 211 of the 293 seats it contested. The BJP could manage just three (it contested 291 seats). The alliance of Left parties and the Congress won 76 seats. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha won three, while one seat was won by an independent candidate.
Republic CNX: BJP 138-148 seats, TMC 128-138 seats, Left+ 11-21
ETG Research: BJP 105-115 (39.1% vote share), TMC 164-176 (42.4% vote share), Left+ 10-15
ABP CVoter BJP 109-121, TMC 152-164, Left+ 14-25
Times Now CVoter: BJP 115, TMC 158, Left+ 19
P-MARQ: BJP+ 112-132, TMC+ 152-172, Left+ 10-15
Jan Ki Baat: BJP 162-185, TMC 104-121, Left+ 3-9
POLLSTRAT: BJP 125-135, TMC 142-152, Left+ 16-26
The big contest
The spotlight is on the battle ground state of Bengal, where the BJP is looking to end a decade-long-rule of the TMC. The run-up to the eight-phase polls and the month-long voting exercise in the state were packed with thundering rallies, high-pitched war of words and a series of controversies that catapulted Bengal to the centre stage of national politics.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah led the BJP’s charge, Banerjee tried to put up a spirited defence in her bid for a third straight term. The BJP leadership has set a target of winning at least 200 of the state’s 294 seats. On the other hand, the TMC maintains its rival will not cross the three-figure mark.
Development, polarisation, caste politics, corruption, infiltration and a clash of cultures have dominated the political rhetoric.
The BJP has promised all-round development in the state, accused the TMC of rampant corruption and appeasement politics, and promised to stop infiltration through the Bangladesh border. The TMC has denied all charges and termed the BJP a party of “outsiders” that did not understand Bengal’s issues. According to analysts, the BJP has focused on consolidating Hindu votes cutting across caste lines, while the TMC has tried to appeal to the larger idea of Bengaliness.
Both sides petitioned the Election Commission against the other on a number of occasions, with the TMC alleging the poll watchdog of working under the pressure of the Centre’s ruling BJP. A massive controversy erupted in the state after four people were killed in firing by central forces in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi during the fourth phase of polling.
Bengal has traditionally voted overwhelmingly in favour of the party that comes to power. But will it be the same this time? Exit polls suggest otherwise. To be sure, exit polls have got it wrong often in the past with a section of analysts arguing that the mood of a handful of voters surveyed for the exercise could not represent the true picture. So, it’s over to the counting day.