The eight-phase elections in West Bengal that went on for four-and-a-half weeks have been described as the longest State elections India has ever seen. The post-poll survey data suggest that this probably did not help the BJP in what is known as micro-management.
In overall terms, as many as 24% or one in every four voters of West Bengal decided who they are going to vote for at the very last minute or a day or two before Voting Day, and among such voters, it was the Trinamool Congress and not the BJP that did exceedingly well. While the ruling party secured 54% of its vote, the BJP was way behind at 33% (Table 1). Any attempt by the BJP to turn things around at the last minute through targeted campaigning did not seem to have worked.
It was not just among the late deciders, but even among the campaign-time deciders (those who decided their vote choice during the campaign or after the announcement of candidates) the Trinamool again enjoyed a sizeable advantage over the BJP. The ruling party secured 49% votes of such voters whereas the BJP was a good 12 percentage points behind at 37%. This finding is particularly significant when compared with the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Back then, the BJP had stolen a march over the Trinamool precisely among this segment of campaign-time deciders, enjoying a two percentage point vote lead.
The only category of voters among whom the BJP managed to put up somewhat of a fight this time were the before campaign deciders. Forty six per cent respondents had actually made up their mind early. Among them, 42% said they voted for the BJP as against 44% for the Trinamool. Significantly, the overall pattern of late and campaign-time deciders giving the Trinamool an advantage over the BJP does not change when we break down the voting preferences data of late and campaign-time deciders by Phases (Table 2).
(The author is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi.)