In modern West Bengal, power is mostly wielded by regional strongmen. This trend started during the CPM, when the party structure was tied up with local bureaucracy in the districts. This was to the extent that Panchayat pradhans would send prepared lists of beneficiaries for government schemes and the government official would simply stamp it.
As the executors of basically all state welfare schemes, these characters became insanely powerful in short order. They gathered around themselves a faithful militia, paid through extortion and other ill gotten money. These characters might have risen in the heyday of the CPM however that doesn't mean this phenomenon was restricted to them. In Berhampore, Adhir(Congress) continues to call the shots despite being besieged on all sides by a hostile TMC to this day. In his youth he was mightier and in effect the Raja of Berhampore. Some other such individuals are the Adhikari brothers in Midnapore(TMC) and the BJP candidate from Cooch Behar. Outside Kolkata, these individuals reign supreme in their fiefdoms and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The behaviour of these individuals often seems to defy conventional political logic. Their minions extort everyone from the richest wholesaler to the poorest retailer, an activity that should have torpedoed any future election campaigns. Yet, we observe they are in fact far more efficient in mobilizing votes than the sophisticated urbane leadership. These elements might accept the sovereignty of that leadership however they act otherwise as independent agents. The incident that finally put an end to 34 years of CPM in the state was in fact the doing of such a local strongman, Lakshman Seth. A man the BJP has inducted incidentally, further supporting my belief that such individuals are indispensable in any attempt at actually competing electorally in this state.
I posit on the basis of such evidence that what is present in Bengal and perhaps a good number of other Indian states is not democracy but democratic feudalism. The will of the people is not completely a non factor, as the 2011 Assemblies and 2019 Lok Sabha proved.
Yet, the massive funds these figures are able to siphon, both from government funds and extortion of the public allows them to maintain a private militia which, in the face of an inactive police, becomes the police, judge and executioner. The strong levels of local autonomy, impunity from the law and local support base makes these local figures akin to feudatories, with thousands of families considering themselves their followers due to some favour or the other. Through a mixture of the carrot(Funding marriages of rando roasties for one) and stick(Literally). Most of them even attempt to set up hereditary lines though their heirs IQ often ends up defeating such attempts.