As the Trinamool Congress swept the bye-elections in West Bengal, a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate said confusion about the proposed implementation of the National Register of Citizens in the state cost the party the seats, PTI reported.

“We have lost despite having a massive lead in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” said Kamal Chandra Sarkar, the BJP candidate in Kaliaganj in Uttar Dinajpur district. “We lost as there has been serious confusion over implementation of NRC in Bengal. People didn’t accept this narrative over NRC and we too failed to reach out to the masses on this issue. There has to be introspection.”

Sarkar lost to Trinamool Congress’s Tapan Deb Singha by 2,414 votes, while the saffron party lost Kharagpur Sadar constituency in Paschim Medinipur district by 20,853 votes. The margin in Karimpur seat in Nadia district was 23,910 votes. In the Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party had been ahead by 45,132 votes in Kharagpur. It also had a massive lead in Kaliaganj, which falls under Raiganj constituency. BJP MP Debasree Chaudhuri’s lead in the Assembly segment was 56,762 votes.

However, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh dismissed concerns about the effect of the National Register of Citizens that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has promised to conduct across India. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb also talked about NRC while campaigning in Uttar Dinajpur.

“We need to look into the results,” said Ghosh. “But we don’t think it will have any bearing on the growth of BJP in Bengal. Actually during bye-polls, it is a general trend that those who are in the government win it.”

The Trinamool Congress also attributed the BJP’s losses to the National Register of Citizens. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called it a “victory of development” and voters’ rejection of the saffron party. She claimed her party’s victories were in favour of secularism and unity, and a “mandate against NRC”.

“Their insolence and arrogance were not accepted by the electorate,” Anandabazar Patrika quoted Banerjee as saying. “They are doing whatever pleases them in every other state. They are sometimes campaigning about NRC while at other times it is something else. People elect MPs and MLAs, and the BJP is demanding proof of citizenship from them.”

The Trinamool Congress chief pointed out that the party had never been able to win Kaliaganj and Kharagpur since its formation in 1998. “This time the people have blessed us,” Banerjee said. “These are people’s victory. That is why we are dedicating these victories to them. There can be nothing bigger than people’s mandate. We won because every member of the party worked hard.”