The matriarch who keeps winning: Why the BJP failed in Bengal

What makes TMC, or its supremo Mamata Banerjee, seemingly unbeatable in West Bengal? Why does she keep winning despite her indifferent governance, multiple scams and embarrassing outbursts in public?

Dr Koyel Basu Jun 11, 2024
Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal CM

The dance of democracy is over. The Bharatiya Janata Party has failed to get a simple majority in parliament and the first Modi-led coalition government is about to emerge. Though they will pull off another term in governance at the Centre, it's not without support from its alliance partners. The long election campaign showed a singular lack of grace and courtesy among electoral candidates with sledgehammer approaches against each other that was an eye-opener of sorts.

Despite the political polarisation attempted by the BJP in pursuit of its Hindu majoritarian agenda, the BJP lost Ayodhya, where only in January, Prime Minister Modi inaugurated a grand Ram Temple that was supposed to mark the launching of his party's election campaign from the Hindu heartland. But despite an orchestrated media build-up, the BJP lost the Faizabad constituency in which Ayodhya is located. It is said that the people of Ayodhya are disenchanted with the BJP as the major chunk of voters here - from Other Backward Classes like the Kurmis and the Yadavs, and the poorer Dalits, were left out of the development frenzy and did not receive any compensation for the loss of their land and livelihood to the building boom in the pilgrim town.

Misplaced hope in West Bengal

What is, however, interesting are the results in West Bengal. The results were unexpectedly positive for the ruling party Trinamool Congress this time compared to 2019 when it lost a few seats to BJP when the latter emerged as the main opposition party. Despite the BJP going all out against the TMC on corruption, the highhandedness of its leaders, education, and job scams, the TMC managed to bag 29 out of 42 seats.

What makes TMC, or its supremo Mamata Banerjee, seemingly unbeatable in West Bengal? Why does she keep winning despite her indifferent governance, multiple scams and embarrassing outbursts in public? She has an enviable emotional connection with the masses. Her policies are operational at the grassroots level where people are the recipients of her welfare schemes covering almost all sections of society. The spectacular win is also due to its organizational skills at the grassroots level catering to the basic needs of the common and rural people.

The attractive scheme “Lakshmir Bhandar”, which gives direct cash transfers to women aged between 25 to 60, has become a tool of empowerment for those women who didn't even earn a penny. The BJP, on the other hand, has been seen by many as unabashedly arrogant and sought to create divides along religious and cultural lines that didn't go down well.

West Bengal which is still the seat of the intelligentsia and the cultural capital of India is resistant to communal polarisation and hijacking of its secular culture. The BJP has failed to understand the sentiments of the Bengalis. Speeches in Hindi by the Prime Minister in addition to the Home Minister at election rallies in Bengal interspersed with cries of “Jai Shree Ram” have boomeranged on it. Instead of speaking of development and creation of jobs, the party focused on religious polarisation which was rejected by the people of this state.

Outmaneuvering the narrative of “corruption”, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress Party preserved its grip firmly in Bengal bastion. In a high-voltage battle, the BJP won 12 seats less than in 2019 when it had consolidated its position riding on a popularity wave by getting 18 seats. About vote share, the TMC got 45.79 percent and the BJP 38.67 percent votes. 

What is alarming is that the Congress, ISF, and the Left fared very poorly in this election. While the people of Bengal have reposed their faith in the TMC, the erstwhile ruling Left Front which had been in power for 34 years at a stretch again has been unsuccessful in securing any seat despite projecting youthful and untainted candidates. Due to the lack of an effective organizational structure that focuses on the needs of a new generation, the Left Front was unsuccessful in recovering from its losses. The results were a fait accompli for them.

Why BJP failed in Bengal?

The exit polls proved markedly wrong as Mamata made a staggering comeback. The BJP failed in West Bengal because the state which has a multiculturally sensitive and encompassing culture rejects any attempt at religious polarisation. The BJP has realised that Partition and post-Partition sentiments do not work in Bengal. The party has been slow to realise about the basic cultural and philosophical values of the people of Bengal, and that divisive politics will not work in West Bengal.

On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee has been successful in convincing the people of Bengal understand that the Centre has been depriving Bengal financially whether in doling out MNERGA money or in increasing the price of daily household items. She punctured Modi’s perceived arrogance by retrieving a few lost seats too. 

What has remained constant is Mamata Banerjee’s political support from the flag-bearers of her party and the people of Bengal against allegations of land-grabbing, Muslim appeasement, and sexual harassment of women of Sandeshkhali, the little hamlet south of Bengal which had hit the headlines over a local TMC leader's alleged highhandedness. Despite her angering many Hindus over her outbursts against some respected Hindu religious organizations like Bharat Seva Sangha, Ramakrishna Mission, and the Iskcon over the perceived political bias of some of their members, the liberal intelligentsia did vote for the TMC.The matriarch is still seen as invincible on her turf despite all the challenges thrown at her. 

(The author is an Assistant Professor at, the Department of Political Science, Jangipur College. Kalyani University, West Bengal. Views are personal. She can be reached at

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