Political analysts would say that a by-election is not always a reflection of what the general mood of a state or nation is. A by-election is normally candidate-centric, it is also said.

In this context let us take a look at the recently concluded by-elections in West Bengal. The seats at Kharagapur, Karimpur and Kaliagunj were won by the Trinamool Congress Party. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee said that it was a major victory and the people of Bengal have rejected the BJP. Her euphoria stems from the fact that the BJP has in no time rocketed to the second spot in Bengal and is a major challenger in the Assembly elections set to be held next year.

The BJP on the other hand said that it would undertake the necessary course correction and the results in 2021 would be completely different. Analysts say that the TMC cannot write off the BJP based on these results. These results were making no difference to the fate of the government in the state and hence it would be unfair to call it as the general mood in Bengal.

Now coming to another question, did the TMC win the election fair and square?

Did TMC win fair and square?

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP could win just 2 seats, but in 2019, there was a huge upswing with the party bagging 18 seats. What was more impressive was the increase in the vote share which stood at 40%.

In the Kharagpur seat, elections were held after the BJP’s state party president Dilip Ghosh vacated the seat. The BJP’s candidate Prem Chandra Jha lost the seat by 20,000 votes. Kharagapur has been a mixed bag with the party securing a vote share of 39.02% in 2016 and 34.02% in 2019. In the Lok Sabha elections, the vote share was 57.2%.

Now coming to Karimpur, the elections here were an ugly affair. The TMC had unleashed its cadres with the sole intention of creating violence. In this context one must have to go back to that viral video in which Jay Prakash Majumdar, the BJP’s candidate from Karimnagar was beaten and heckled by the cadres of the TMC.

He was heckled by the TMC goons after he said that these persons were false voters who had come to the area with the specific intention of rigging the polls. The incident was watched with horror and shock and could have clearly had a bearing in the minds of the voters. Majumdar termed it as the death of democracy in Bengal.

Although the BJP lost the seat, it would still see a bright ray of hope as its vote share improved dramatically. In the 2016 Assembly elections, the vote share was 11.59%. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it stood at 35.5% and in the by-elections, it was 38.75%.

In Kaliagunj too, the vote share improved for the BJP. From 12.7% in 2016 to 43.54% in 2019, the BJP’s vote share has improved dramatically here. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party recorded a vote share of 52.2%.

In the aftermath of the results, BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said that the elections were rigged using the state machinery. Had the voting been conducted in a fair manner, then the BJP would have won, he exclaimed. He also stated that there were incidents of booth capturing and added that the Election Commission had said that there would be central forces on the ground but that did not happen at the booth level.

BJP’s national secretary Rahul Sinha who said that he would file an application with the EC seeking an inquiry into incidents of EVM tampering and the counting process said that the elections were rigged. He blamed the state and government officials of being hand in glove with some EC officials as a result of which the counting was rigged.

Time for the Citizenship Amendment Bill:

It is clear that the TMC opposes the NRC tooth and nail as it fears losing a vote bank. The NRC issue played out the most at the Kaliagunj constituency. In fact, the BJP missed a win here by a whisker. The BJP’s Kamal Chandra Sarkar lost by just 2,414 votes.

The NRC was expected to be the main issue considering this constituency border Bangladesh. It is from here that a major influx of illegal immigrants has taken place. Most of these persons over the years have been given voter cards and other government documents. They are eligible voters and if they are identified as illegal immigrants through an NRC process then they lose these rights. These persons have been the vote bank of parties such as the CPI(M) at first and now the TMC.

The NRC, which is an exercise undertaken in national interest so that the genuine citizen benefits has been deliberately misrepresented by the TMC. The TMC ran a sustained campaign to create fear and panic in the minds of the people.

The best counter for the BJP would now be the Citizenship Amendment Bill.  The discourse on the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the NRC has often been a confused one.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 is aimed at granting citizenship to the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before December 31, 2014. Earlier the migrants from these communities were given protection against legal action apart from them being provided with long term visas in the years 2015 and 2016.

The minimum residency period through this Bill would be reduced from 12 years to 7 years. This would not be specific to any state and the beneficiaries can reside in any state of the country.

Officials say that there are many Hindus living both in Jammu and Kashmir as well as Bengal who are without rights. Instead the illegal immigrants have got voting rights and the TMC’s agenda of misrepresenting issues such as the NRC are only to protect its vote bank.

On the other hand, an NRC too is very important for Bengal. What the people would need to understand that is that the exercise is aimed at identifying an illegal immigrant who has over the years snatched away the rights of a genuine citizen.

Since a long time, there has been a consistent effort to confuse the issue. The former Governor of Assam, SK Sinha had said that the secular parties and the minorities do not see any danger from illegal immigration. They believe that the illegal immigrants are Bengali speaking Indian Muslims. They fear that in the garb of deporting a foreigner, the Indian Muslim would be harassed.

Let us make it clear that the NRC does not have a provision that says certain religions will be excluded. All citizens of India irrespective of religion will figure in the NRC list.