How poll arithmetic worked for Mamata
This is not to take away credit from Mamata Banerjee for her amazing second consecutive victory in West Bengal. But the arithmetic of the 2016 state assembly poll tells a humdinger of a story. A late surge by the BJP, powered by Narendra Modi’s aggressive campaign, may have made the difference between victory and defeat for Mamata.
A detailed constituency-wise analysis of the results reveals that anti-Mamata votes were split between the BJP and the Left-Congress jot to the benefit of the Trinamool in as many as 112 of West Bengal’s 294 assembly constituencies. In most of these constituencies, the BJP mopped up 20,000- 30,000 votes where once it hardly got a few thousand. Had the BJP remained the bit player that it has been traditionally, the jot could well have won these seats.
Take Mamata’s own constituency of Bhabanipur in Kolkata. She defeated Deepa Das Munshi of the Congress by a little over 25,000 votes. The BJP nominee for the seat, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s grand nephew Chandra Kumar Bose, garnered 27,000 votes despite being a political novice and a spectacularly unimpressive campaigner. In addition, there were 2,000 NOTA votes. Imagine the arithmetic of the election without the BJP. Could Mamata have lost?
Here are some tantalising nuggets about Bhabanipur. In 2011, Mamata swept the constituency to defeat her CPI(M) rival by 55,000 votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP led over the Trinamool Congress in this assembly segment by 218 votes. As the BJP campaign gained momentum, the buzz in Kolkata was that Bhabanipur may spring a surprise. Ultimately, Mamata pulled ahead with a respectable margin of victory.
The mathematics of the 2016 assembly poll has thrown up interesting questions about Mamata’s politics in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Will the BJP be her main challenger after its spectacular gains in terms of vote share in both 2014 and 2016? Or will the Left and Congress continue to be her chief opponents? Mamata’s play on the national stage will be decided by the answers to these questions.
Congress rebel star campaigner for BJP
Congress rebel Himanta Biswa Sarma turned star campaigner for the BJP in Assam and scripted the historic victory in the Northeastern state. Could he have been stopped from leaving the Congress?
Sarma tells a story about Rahul’s dog. The incident is supposed to have occurred during his final meeting with the Congress vice president. According to Sarma, midway through the discussion, Rahul’s dog jumped on the table and attacked a plate of biscuits. The meeting ended abruptly and Sarma walked out of Rahul’s house and the party soon after.
But the dog was not the only one who snubbed Sarma. Apparently, the first thing Rahul said to him as he walked in through the door was that he would not discuss any change of leadership in Assam. No change of CM, he warned. That set the tone. Sarma realised his time in the Congress was over.
Interestingly, a few weeks before the election process began, Rahul’s election advisor Prashant Kishor is believed to have sent feelers to Sarma. Surprised, Sarma telephoned Sonia aide Ahmed Patel to ask what was going on. Patel is said to have been equally surprised, which led Sarma to conclude that Kishor was acting on his own without a green signal from those who matter. The rest is history.
Robert Vadra scripts his own interview
Congress circles are bewildered by first family son-in-law Robert Vadra’s latest interview in which he made no bones about his political ambitions. Why did he choose to speak out at this time, when there’s a buzz about a formal role for Priyanka in the Congress party?
The story behind the interview is an interesting one. Apparently, the journalist from a television news agency who did the interview has been chasing Robert for a long time. He has been sending him sms messages on festivals, birthdays etc in the hope of getting an interview.
It was Robert’s birthday in April and the journalist again messaged him. This time, to his amazement, Robert’s Man Friday telephoned and asked him to come to the Delhi Golf Club at 5 am the next morning to meet Robert.
The journalist rushed there at 4:30 am, armed with a questionnaire. He was taken aback when Robert threw away that questionnaire and handed him a sheet of paper with questions that he wanted to answer! The rules of interviews are clearly being changed by a man with no patience for niceties.
Will it be Priyanka versus Smriti in UP?
Although the BJP has decided against fielding Smriti Irani as its CM face in UP for next year’s Assembly polls, the feisty HRD minister is being kept in reserve just in case the Congress decides to give Priyanka a leading role in UP. Election whiz Prashant Kishor is pushing hard for Priyanka to be star campaigner, if not CM nominee.
The family is mum on the issue but the BJP is not taking any chances. It has decided that Smriti will be its weapon against Priyanka. She’s a smart and aggressive speaker and has enough celebrity quotient to challenge Priyanka’s star appeal.
Here’s the catch. While the Priyanka versus Smriti battle will definitely grab eyeballs and make UP sizzle, Mayawati is likely to walk away with the prize by winning the election. Priyanka is grounded enough to understand this and is unlikely to risk her charisma. In which case, Smriti may fight a proxy war with Priyanka by challenging her in the Gandhi family fiefdoms of Amethi, Rae Bareli and Sultanpur which are exclusively managed by Priyanka.