Polstrat Opinion Poll 2021: Voices from West Bengal

The Polstrat West Bengal Opinion Poll was conducted from March 12th to 15th with a sample size of 10,000. The survey was conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) interactive computer system where respondents can carry out interviews on the phone. The sampling method used ensures that all of West Bengal is covered both geographically and demographically (so as to ensure equal representation).

Watch the broadcast of our opinion poll on TV9 Bharatvarsh here.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Credit: Indian Express

The Assembly Elections in West Bengal will be held between 27 March and 29 April 2021 in 8 phases for all 294 constituencies. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) won the last Assembly Election in the state in 2016 with a vote share of 44.91% and 211 seats. The 2016 Assembly Elections recorded a voter turnout of 83.02% which was a decrease of 1.31% from the previous election. The AITC will be fighting to win a third term in the state with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance. Another major front contesting the elections will be the Indian National Congress in alliance with the Left.

Between 2016 and 2021, the political dynamics of West Bengal has changed significantly with BJP gaining a significant hold in the state in the local body polls and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In Central Bengal, the vote share of TMC in the 2016 Vidhan Sabha elections was 47% and is slated to come down to 42.1% in the 2021 elections. The region will see a major transition from supporting INC+Left with a 35.9% vote share in the 2016 election towards the BJP which is slated to receive 38.4% of the votes in the 2021 elections. As per the survey, the vote share of INC + Left is also slated to reduce to 12.6%. However, the dynamics of seat share for the region do not follow the same trend. TMC is likely to only secure 26 seats, a significant decrease from the 42 seats it won in 2016. Similarly, the INC and Left coalition is also predicted to win only 3 seats, another major decrease from the 13 it won in the previous election. A lion’s share of this seat share is slated to shift to the BJP which is slated to increase its tally from 0 in 2016 to 26 in 2021.

Trends in Greater Kolkata are similar to those in Central Bengal. TMC’s 47.8% vote share and 39 seats in 2016 is speculated to reduce to a vote share of 44.8% and 35 seats. A major chunk of INC + Left’s 2016 vote share of 34.9% is slated to shift to the BJP in the 2021 elections which are speculated to increase its share from 10.9% to 38.3% in 2021. However, in terms of seat share, INC + Left is to retain its 3 seats and the loss of 4 seats to the TMC will shift to BJP gaining 4 seats.

Similarly, trends in South Bengal are also in line with Central Bengal and Kolkata. TMC which secured 48.8% votes and 89 seats in 2016 is predicted to come down to 45.8% votes and only secure 63. BJP, on the other hand, is to increase its vote share from 8.5% to 36.6% increasing its seat from 1 to 37 in the region. INC + Left’s seat share is to fall from 14 in 2016 to 4 in 2021 losing out on 25.4% votes (36.7% in 2016; 11.3% in 2021).

In North Bengal, TMC is slated to increase its vote share from 37.7% in 2016 to 44.2% in 2021 but lose two seats, coming down to 39 from 41. INC+Left which were dominant in this region in 2016 with 41.8% votes and 46 seats is speculated to come down to 12.2% vote share but retain 19 seats. BJP is slated to increase its tally from 2 seats in 2016 to 35 in 2021 with a vote share gain of 25.5%.

Who should be CM?

Throughout the campaigning for the West Bengal assembly elections, the TMC used the narrative of “Mamata vs. Who?” to comment on the lack of clarity from the BJP about who would be the Chief Ministerial face of the party. Although Home Minister Amit Shah claimed during multiple rallies that the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate for Bengal would be someone who is a “son of the soil”, no clear candidate has been announced. While it is being speculated that state BJP president Dilip Ghosh is one of the contenders, only 24.1% of all respondents think he should be the Chief Minister of the state. On the other hand, a whopping 51.8% of overall voters said they think Mamata Banerjee should be the Chief Minister.

Even amongst BJP supporters, there seems to be a lot of confusion about who the CM should be, perhaps due to the party’s indecisiveness about the same. 43.3% of BJP supporters chose Dilip Ghosh as the CM face, while Mamata Banerjee is the second most preferred Chief Minister candidate, even for BJP supporters (25.1%). Only 8% of BJP supporters said they think Shubhendu Adhikari, who defected to the BJP in December last year, should be the Chief Minister.

Which issue matters the most to voters?

The battle for West Bengal has transformed into a clash between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the past few weeks. BJP’s rise in the state through greater numbers in local body polls and increasing its share significantly in the 2019 Lok Sabha election has changed the dynamics of politics in the state. The two-front fight for the state has therefore emerged as a fight between the top leaders of both these parties with some other elements thrown into the fray. This is clearly visible in the numbers as well, with respondents stating the Mamata and Modi factors would be the two most important issues for the elections.

Mamata Bannerjee’s hold and relevance in the state’s politics is confirmed by the numbers, with 39.7% of the respondents still considering the Mamata factor as the most important issue in the elections. Modi’s image is the second most important for respondents, with 28.6% of them considering it as an important factor. Support for Mamata Bannerjee runs across the board with 47.3% of INC and 57.1% of TMC supporters also pointing to the Mamata factor being the most important issue in the state.

The minority plank which has undertones in all BJP campaigns across the country and has been brought to the fore by the implementation of CAA and NRC holds even more relevance in a state which has 27% Muslims. However, only 6.3% of respondents said they think the “Muslim factor” is the most important issue for them. Corruption and a clean government are still relevant matters with around 14.4% of the respondents considering it the most important factor in the state’s election.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Member of West Bengal Legislative Assembly Suvendu Adhikari. Credit:Indian Express

Who will win the fight for Nandigram?

The fight for the Nandigram assembly constituency is undoubtedly the most watched battle of the 2021 West Bengal assembly elections. The constituency is crucial for incumbent Suvendu Adhikari, who won the seat in 2016 as a TMC candidate, with a whopping 67.2% vote share. Adhikari, who defected to the BJP in December 2020, was instrumental in carrying out Mamata Banerjee’s Nandigram agitation in 2008–09 which propelled her to power. The Nandigram agitation was pivotal in Mamata Banerjee’s rise to power, as it helped her overthrow the Left Front for the first time in the state and establish her pro-farmer connection in the state. Adhikari’s defection was a blow to the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC as he was considered a protege and close ally of Mamata Banerjee, and also marked the start of a series of defections of senior TMC leaders towards the BJP.

Overall, 50% of the respondents think that Mamata Banerjee will win the Nandigram seat, nestling power away from Adhikari, who was able to win the seat with a margin of 60%. Nandigram has been a TMC stronghold since their rise in power in 2009, with every TMC candidate winning roughly over 60% of votes since the 2009 by-elections. However, despite this, Adhikari has a strong rapport in the constituency, and 40.7% of respondents think the BJP will win the constituency.

What do people think of Mamata’s Injury?

Mamata Banerjee and the TMC alleged that she was attacked while campaigning in Nandigram on March 10. While Banerjee and the TMC claimed she was “pushed by 4–5 men”, a detailed Election Commission report on the incident has ruled out the possibility of a planned attack and said this was accidental. Shortly after the reports, a morphed image of Mamata Banerjee went viral on social media where she was shown walking away from her wheelchair, insinuating that her leg injury was merely an election gimmick.

The incident has led to widespread debate about whether she was actually attacked or whether the injury was only for the cameras. However, the most important question now is: will the TMC and Banerjee be able to benefit from this incident? Respondents seem to be extremely divided about the same, with overall 47% saying they will benefit from the same, and 41.7% saying they will not. While TMC and Congress supporters think the TMC is more likely to benefit from the controversy, BJP supporters are not very convinced of the same.

Which party can bring about the most development in West Bengal?

The BJP’s campaign for West Bengal started with the premise of bringing Gujarat-style development to the state. The party has never formed a government in the state before and has won elections across the country on the development plank and is attempting to do the same in West Bengal through its Sonar Bangla (Golden Bangla) campaign. On the other hand, the TMC’s focus for their campaign has been on women voters and the development of women brought about by Mamata Banerjee. The TMC has been campaigning with its slogan of “Bangla Nijer Meye ke Chai” (Bengal wants its own daughter), stressing the importance of Banerjee as the only female Chief Minister of the state, and her role in bringing about development and empowerment to women of the state.

As shown by the numbers, respondents have a lot of trust in the TMC to bring development to the state (51%). The Congress has not been gaining any traction in the state, and in fact, 55.3% of Congress supporters think TMC will bring the most development to the state. Trust on TMC to bring development in the state runs across the board with 40.7% of respondents supporting “other” parties also stating that the TMC will bring the most development. This is further strengthened by the fact that 26.9% of BJP supporters also say that TMC will bring the most development.

BJP, whose election plank is based on development and on the alleged corruption in the TMC government, comes second across the board on people’s trust in bringing development to the state with 38.6% of the overall respondents relying on the BJP. 16.2% of TMC supporters and 29.1% of the left supporters also think BJP will bring the most development to the state.

By Shreya Maskara/New Delhi

From Polstrat, a non-partisan political consultancy which aims to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.

Read more about Polstrat here. Follow us on Medium to keep up to date with Indian politics.

Polstrat is a political consultancy aiming to shift the narrative of political discourse in the country from a problem-centric to a solutions-oriented approach.