The BJP was the most preferred destination in the run-up to assembly elections in West Bengal. Scores of Trinamool Congress leaders, including over a dozen sitting MLAs, switched to the saffron camp at the prospect of victory.
However, within a month of Trinamool’s resounding win, the tide seems to have turned. Many of these defectors are now asking for Mamata Banerjee’s “forgiveness”, while some others have softened their stance.
So what explains the rush for “ghar wapsi”?
The tendency to be on the right side of power is important in politics. But there’s a statistical hypothesis too.
A quick analysis by Ashoka University’s Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) indicates that defection to the Trinamool worked well, while turning away from the ruling party proved costly.
TCPD data says of the 28 turncoats fielded by the Trinamool, 18 won. This translates to an impressive 64 per cent win ratio. Most Left and Congress leaders who jumped ship to the Trinamool reaped rich electoral dividends.
On the other hand, the bulk of the over 40 defectors fielded by BJP lost, India Today has found. The saffron camp had fielded at least 16 sitting Trinamool MLAs, along with a number of Left leaders and pro-Mamata film personalities, who deserted their parties before the high-profile elections.
The biggest win for BJP was undoubtedly brought about by Suvendu Adhikari, who is being touted as the “giant-killer” for defeating Mamata in Nandigram. Mukul Roy also secured a victory from Krishnanagar North. Both these leaders were once close to the Trinamool supremo.
But most of the others, including Howrah strongman Rajib Banerjee, former BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya’s daughter Baishali Dalmiya, Rabindranath Bhattacharya of Singur agitation fame and Mukul Roy’s son Subhranshu Roy, had to bite the dust. The BJP is now fighting internal dissent over handing tickets to them.
Double-defections in the pipeline?
Former Trinamool MLAs Sonali Guha and Dipendu Biswas switched over to the BJP after being denied tickets. They have now written to Mamata regretting their decision and urging her to take them back.
“The way fish cannot stay out of water, I will not be able to live without you Didi. I seek your forgiveness, and if you don’t forgive me, I won’t be able to live,” Guha had written to her former boss.
Former Trinamool MLAs Rajib Banerjee and Prabir Ghosal, both of whom contested unsuccessfully on BJP tickets this time, have already expressed dissatisfaction with their new parties.
“People will not take it kindly if, just for the sake of opposing a government elected with huge popular support, threats of Delhi and Article 356 (President’s Rule) are used at the drop of a hat. We should rise above politics and stand by the people of Bengal, who have been devastated by Covid and Yaas,” Banerjee recently wrote on Facebook.
Subhranshu Roy even went a step ahead and heaped praises on Mamata for the way she handled the Covid-19 pandemic in Bengal.
The next few days will be crucial for the BJP to hold its folk together. Whether these rumblings take the shape of an exodus remains to be seen, but electoral data compiled by TCPD show Bengal has a history of rejecting defectors. In the 2016 assembly elections, 27 defectors reportedly contested, of whom only 12 won. This translates to a strike rate of less than 50 per cent.
In the three assembly elections between 2001 and 2011, 171 defectors reportedly contested, but only 55 or one-third of them could manage to secure a victory.