The success of the BJP in West Bengal during the 2019 Lok Sabha election was largely made possible due to a significant shift amongst traditional Left and Congress supporters towards it.
The Lokniti-CSDS NES 2019 post-poll data indicated — around two-fifths of traditional Left voters and one-third of traditional Congress supporters voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha election, helping it achieve its unexpected victories. The BJP needed two things to win the 2021 election — either it had to make a bigger dent in the traditional base of the Left and the Congress, and/or mobilise a sizeable number of unattached voters. It seems to have failed on both these accounts. According to our post-poll data, the BJP managed to wean away only 33% of traditional Left voters and 25% of Congress supporters to its side. This is 6 to 7 percentage points less than what it had managed in 2019.
Half the traditional Left Front and around two-fifths of traditional Congress voters stuck with their traditional choices and voted for the Left-Congress-ISF joint alliance instead of opting for the BJP. To be sure, not many (only 9%) in our survey this time described themselves as traditional Left-Congress voters. Many of Left-Congress loyalists, we suspect chose to describe themselves as unattached this time — as many as two-fifths of all respondents said they were not a supporter of any particular party. However, among this pool of voters too the BJP could not make any massive gains, securing only 45% of their support.
The failure to capitalise on the ambivalent and uncertain vote seems to have done the damage for the BJP. While the party did manage to capture around four-fifths of the anti-incumbency vote (34% wanted the government out), it could not make the same dent among those (13%) who were not sure if the government should get another chance or not. Only half of such people voted for the BJP and about one-fifth each for the Sanyukta Morcha and the Trinamool (Table 2).
(Shreyas Sardesai is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS; Sanjay Kumar is Co-Director of the Lokniti programme at CSDS.)