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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 8, New Delhi, February 6, 2021

West Bengal: 2021 State Poll - The Shape of Things to Come | Sukla Sen

Saturday 6 February 2021

by Sukla Sen

Introduction

Four constituent states, apart from a Union Territory, of the Union of India are due for assembly polls in about three months or so[1].

All the four state assembly polls are, beyond doubt, pretty important — in their own ways.

However, the West Bengal one is attracting special attention with the leadership of the Hindu nationalist BJP — the incumbent ruling party of India, quite visibly, according extraordinary priority to wresting the state from one of its, arguably, most vitriolic[2], [3] opponents — currently ruling the state.

The party (national) president, the Union Home Minister and the Prime Minister — apart from other lesser mortals, are, as per disclosures by last December, due to visit the state every month, till the polls are over. [4], [5], [6]

The level of prioritisation strongly suggests that the underlying driver cannot be defined merely in terms of the specific equations obtaining[7], now, between the two ruling parties — at the Centre and the State.

Moreover, the ruling party at the Centre has already started openly leveraging its governmental powers[8] to favour itself, in the run-up to the oncoming contest, triggering, almost immediately, a gesture of (bold) defiance by the state government[9].

Speculations about the final prospects, and the campaign itself, however, started quite a bit hotting up[10] with Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, (at least twice) publicly claiming that (out of total 294 seats[11]), the BJP would notch up over 200 — first, in a press conference[12] in early November (2020), that had, though, failed to cause a noticeable splash, and then repeating it, with appreciably far larger impact, given the accompanying circumstances, in a public rally[13] about a month and a half thereafter, on the occasion of which ten legislators of the current state assembly, seven from the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and one each from opposition Congress, CPI(M) and CPI apart from a sitting TMC member of the national parliament along with a few other notables of some lower orders[14], formally crossed over to the BJP, and the (professional) “strategist” at the employ of the challenger TMC emphatically rebutting that he’d give up his profession if the BJP manages to cross the double-digit mark[15].

That’s how, so to speak, the bugle was blown.

That is also testified by the tone and tenor of the, soon to follow, response of the TMC supremo and the state Chief Minister, even making due allowances for her widely known quick temper[16], to various claims made by the Union Home Minister during that round.[17]

What Does the BJP Stand For?

Before delving into the specifics of the forthcoming West Bengal poll, it’d only be appropriate to take a little pause to have a brief look into what does the (Hindu nationalist) BJP stand for, at this very moment, in particular?

One rather cryptic observation[18] by a rather remarkably perceptive analyst, at the very fag end of the year gone by, nevertheless, appears to have pretty aptly captured the very essence: “Modi’s government is forging ahead to rescript the idea of India around the myth of a supreme Hindu race.”

However, it’s just not the idea — radical reconfiguring of the “secular democratic republic” [19] of India is already underway.

Yet another noteworthy observation — by a professional historian, from a slightly different angle, testifies to that: “2020 has been a bad year for the health of Indians and for the health of Indian democracy too. The Modi-Shah regime, which is authoritarian by instinct and belief, has used the pandemic to further undermine the processes of constitutional democracy and strengthen its hold over State and society. In pursuit of its ambitions, the regime has launched a multi-pronged attack on the Indian Parliament, Indian federalism, the Indian press and Indian civil society organisations.”[20]
All these, in their own, even if somewhat restrained, ways, go to buttress the — quite visibly rather formulaic, proposition put forward by the present commentator in the almost immediate wake of Modi retaining his position — via the 2019 poll, albeit with a much larger majority: "What, however, is far more germane in anticipating the developments in the coming days is that the BJP/RSS has a project — to supplant the “secular” and “democratic” Indian state with a “Hindu Rashtra” (Hindu nation state) — the contours of which are, understandably, not etched in stone, but, even then, would mean complete negation of substantive democracy and pluralism. Of still greater salience, the journey towards it has got to be propelled by constant stirring up of hatred and violence against the constructed inimical “others”, in order to mobilise the Hindus as “Hindus”, drowning out all other competing identities.

...

"It would no longer be business as usual, not even by the standards of the last five years."[21]

The monograph, cited above, had also ventured to anticipate, in some granular details, the profile of the coming developments.

It had, specifically, focused on: "dislodging, maybe even dismissal, of, at least a few, opposition-run state governments"; "ED, IT, CBI raids on opposition politicians; also, in some cases, buying out"; "Tightening the screw, in a myriad ways — including enhanced digital surveillance, also as regards the civil society organisations and dissenting individuals"; "Sharply spiking communal polarisation by way of (phased?) nationwide roll-out of the NRC, also scrapping of Art. 370 (and Art. 35A) and putting to good use the Mandir-Masjid issue(s), as per the demands of the situation".

The list also included: "Further intensification of non-state physical violence"; "Mega sale of PSUs"; "“Economic reforms”"; "Stepped up trashing of environmental norms and safeguards"; "Tightening the grip over the education infrastructure and institutions"; "Further defanging of watchdog institutions"; "More repressive laws, if felt necessary".

While one, given the central issue on the table, need not detain oneself in order to go into the precise details, it’d suffice to assert that things are turning out to be exactly that way — that too at a dizzying pace.

The key operating principle, obviously, is: "It [i.e. Modi 2.0] would no longer be business as usual, not even by the standards of the last five years [i.e. Modi 1.0]."

Things have visibly accelerated
.

There’s, however, sort of an important gap — no categorical underlining of a likely move towards systematic undermining of the quasi-federal structure of the Indian state.

A highly centralised state is a sine qua non of an authoritarian state — even a de facto one.

For the purpose of the current discussion, it’d, however, be in the fitness of things, to specially mention and briefly look into the CAA/NPR/NRC.

CAA/NPR/NRC

The hotly contested Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (CAB) became the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), having been notified in the Gazette, at (Dec. 12/13) midnight, following the grant of assent by the President on December 12, in turn preceded by its passage in the Lok Sabha on Dec. 9 and then in the Rajya Sabha on Dec. 11th.[22]

As regards the NRC (National Register of Citizens), in April 2019, the BJP released its poll manifesto[23] and therein, under para 7, indicated: "We will expeditiously complete the National Register of Citizens process in these areas [having high level of "illegal immigration"] on priority. In future we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country."[24]

The then BJP President Amit Shah publicly vowed to rid the country of “termites” (the “infiltrators”) via the NRC process.[25] He would also further “clarify”[26] that first there’d be CAB (which’d, in due course, become CAA after having been passed by the parliament) — so that non-Muslim Indians (strictly speaking, non-Muslim immigrants, driven out by religious persecution, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had arrived on or before 31st December 2014) are granted citizenship, and then the NRC will follow (to rid the country of the “termites”).

Here’s quite a noteworthy observation on the salience of the NRC, in the context of West Bengal, from an independent Left intellectual-activist[27], who had been an important member of the CPI(M) — the most major (parliamentary) Left outfit in West Bengal / India, in a not-too-distant past: "West Bengal is a border State with a nearly 10 crore population of which 27% belong to the Muslim minority. It is also home to millions of post-Partition refugees, a significant section of whom belong to Scheduled Caste communities like Rajbangshi and Namasudra. If the BJP comes to power, armed with the citizenship matrix of the National Register of Citizens-National Population Register and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019, and determined to weed out “1 crore Bangladeshi infiltrators” as imagined by its State President Dilip Ghosh, what lies ahead for the State’s social fabric is anybody’s guess."[28]

In the following, the overall — national, implications of the CAA/NPR/NRC project and the gameplan of the regime are, rather fleetingly, examined.

I. The CAA (2019)[29] is both arbitrary and discriminatory.

And, quite visibly so.

While Afghanistan is there (among the three listed countries, from which specified sections of "illegal" migrants — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Parsis, would be entitled to obtain Indian citizenship), with which India shares no functioning common border, bordering Myanmar, which had even been a part of British India, and neighbouring Sri Lanka — across a strait (an easily navigable (by smaller vessels) narrow strip of sea)[30], are excluded.

(It bears mentioning that both Myanmar[31] and Sri Lanka[32], in the recent past, had attracted global attention and censure for large-scale persecutions and gross violations of human rights, of specific minority communities, by those two (Buddhist-majority) states.)

Similarly, only "religious persecution" qualifies — not other forms.

And even there — Muslims, atheists, rationalists, Ahmadis etc. are excluded.

II. Thereby, the Act, rather starkly, sends out two noxious messages.

One, Muslims just do not belong (to India).

Two, only non-Muslims are religiously persecuted and, that too, only in Muslim-majority countries.

III. It, thus, runs counter to a foundational tenet of the Indian Constitution: non-discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, gender etc.[33]

(Special supports for the weak and marginalised exempted.)[34]

IV. Even then, it’s rather unlikely to have any significant impact on the ground, outside of the North-East and West Bengal.

And that’s too somewhat doubtful.

V. It, nevertheless, promises citizenship to (otherwise ineligible) some while withholding such privilege to others — based on religion.

That’s toxic.

But, by itself, it doesn’t take away anyone’s citizenship.

VI. The promise, by and large, appears to be a hoax.

That the "rules" are yet to be framed — even after a year[35], clearly shows up the lack of seriousness in granting citizenship.

VII. Far more importantly, it’s a red herring.

It’s meant to mislead — to pit those who have, so very demonstratively, been denied this "promise" against those who have been offered — though "promise" only, in order divide and weaken the anticipated resistance against the NRC.

Quite regrettably, the opponents of the regime, rather readily, swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker — by focusing the ire on the CAA[36].

(The agitations in the North-East — regardless of merits or otherwise, fall, however, in a category altogether different.[37])

VIII. The real monster is the NRC, of which the NPR is the first, and most critical operational, part.[38]

(Once the NPR is done — all data gathered, the NRC becomes virtually unstoppable.)

IX. The NRC operation makes vast sections of Indians, not in possession of documents related to ownership of ancestral land/house or such, extremely vulnerable to the threat — that the exercise overlies, of being stripped of citizenship.

Very much unlike in case of Assam, where the NRC process is already done, once — as mandated and overseen by the Supreme Court of India in pursuance of a special Accord, for the rest of India, no documents have been specified which would be necessary/sufficient to prove one’s citizenship.[39]

As things stand, right at this moment, it’s virtually all at the discretion of the state.

That’s too terrifying.

X. Needs be collectively and resolutely countered.

The role of the concerned state governments, who have to provide the infrastructural support for the NPR survey and who may opt to either back or suppress the public protests in this regard, would, obviously, be highly critical.

It’s a battle an ordinary Indian just doesn’t afford to lose.

XI. Once the citizenship is lost — or even in the case of one’s name not figuring in the preliminary list, one’d just be in a real hellhole.[40]

As plain as that.

XII. The whole exercise is, understandably, meant to trigger a somewhat low-key civil war-like situation across religious divides, so as to mobilise Hindus as “Hindus” — drowning out all other competing identities linked to language, ethnicity, caste, creed, class, gender etc.

In order to derive a big push towards a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu nation state) — the precise profile of which remains to be etched out, but, at the very minimum, denuded of all vestiges of substantive democracy and pluralism.

The economy is sure to take a big hit.

But, that’s an acceptable price.

From the viewpoint of the incumbent regime.

It’s precisely in this context, one’ll have to duly factor in the fairly insightful observation linking West Bengal with the NRC, by Prasenjit Bose — as cited above[28], and it makes a highly disturbing reading.

2021 Poll: Past Data 

As the above chart[28] shows, since 2011, when the TMC, for the first time, wrested power[41] from the then ruling Left Front — spearheaded by the CPI(M), ending its unbroken reign for 34 years, riding on the waves of mass outrage and protests against the, eventually, failed heavy-handed efforts — via the coercive apparatus of the state and backed up by (unofficial) armed squads of the leading party, to acquire cultivated lands in Singur and Nandigram, and subsequently Lalgarh, for the purpose of indigenous and foreign corporates-led “industrialisation [42], the vote-share of the (now) ruling TMC did quite appreciably rise till 2016 assembly poll and then, virtually plateaued, with a minor dip — as seen in the outcome of the 2019 parliamentary poll.
As far as the Left Front is concerned, which had been the ruling coalition till 2011, it has suffered a steep decline — the most dramatic one is, of course, in 2019 parliamentary poll, which went hand in hand with the even more dramatic rise of the BJP. But, the decline appears even sharper if one takes into account its performance in the preceding state poll: “Its vote-share [in 2011] has come down from close to 50 per cent five years ago to around 41 per cent. Three-fourths of the Front ministers have failed to get re-elected. Its chief minister has been demolished by a retired civil servant who had once served under him.”[43]

The author of the above-cited observation is one recognised as a top intellectual associated with the CPI(M)/LF and that makes his, rather detailed, diagnosis of the causes for the decline, which follows immediately thereafter all that noteworthy: "(M)ajor shift in ideology and praxis had the severest impact on the (Left) Front’s peasant base, unquestionably the principal bulwark of its strength. Tycoons were invited to build industry, but industry could not be built in air; they had to be provided with land. Rapid acquisition of land of the size and specificity preferred by private capital became the priority item. The promise to consult the people before taking crucial decisions was forgotten, panchayat bodies and kisan sabhas were sidelined, bureaucratic procedures took over. The rest is tragic history." (That’s a sort of, very concise, abstract.)

As can be seen from the chart above, the slide remained unabated.

One of the reasons is, arguably, its stubborn refusal to do any course correction.[44]
As far as the BJP is concerned, it had been steadily expanding its footprint all across India[45], since 2014 — when it came to power at the Centre, and, in the process, would also demolish yet another LF citadel in Tripura putting an abrupt end to uninterrupted 25 years of Left rule[46]. The other pan-India factors that helped include a sharp spike in jingoistic nationalism triggered by Pulwama-Balakot[21]. Came on top of a massive migration of Left, and to a lesser extent Congress, voters, since the immediately preceding assembly poll, to the saffron camp[47] — as has, quite compellingly, been testified by the chart above.

The divided Left

As the chart, presented above, of vote-shares of the major contenders since 2011 brings out, the BJP from a meagre 4.1% in 2011 has now risen to above 40% and, far more strikingly, between 2016 and 2019 managed to accomplish a four-fold spike — obviously, at the cost of the Left and, to a lesser extent, the Congress.

Even though the TMC was able to, more or less, hold its ground — despite the nationwide Modi wave, the gap between the two top contenders has drastically narrowed to just around 3% points.

This has, regardless of the fact that almost all mainstream parliamentary Left parties — led by the CPI(M), are taking things as business as usual and consequently have, for all practical purpose, identified the TMC as the enemy no. 1[48], sent a shiver down the spines of large sections with progressive and left leanings — with no strong party affiliations.

Of course, the CPI(ML)-Liberation is a notable exception[49] — never mind its limited presence in the state.

These dissenters — sans any party banner, have launched a “No Vote to BJP” campaign[50].

The campaign appears to be backed by the CPI(ML)-Liberation and, understandably, CPI(ML)-Red Star — with even smaller presence, as well.

In the meanwhile, presumably, in order to gain a moral edge in the eyes of the anti-BJP sections of the masses, the TMC, on Jan. 13th, issued an appeal to the Left and the Congress for support to the Chief Minister in her fight against the BJP, which would, almost immediately, be turned down by both — in a joint press conference.[51]
In this specific context, it’s necessary to note, at least in passing, that howsoever one may wish for a formal/informal/limited alliance between the TMC and the mainstream Left, it does just not look feasible.

Of the various reasons, two deserve special mention.

One is publicly acknowledged and, in fact, frequently harped upon by the Left[52]: the reign of terror that the TMC had unleashed against the Left in the wake of coming to power in the state in 2011[53]. That has hugely embittered the relationship.

But, that’s not all.

Similar — understandably even more intense, violence by a past Congress government[54] is not inhibiting the Left from going into an electoral alliance with the Congress now[55], preceded by a more “informal” one, five years back[56].

Of course, close to half a century has elapsed.

The other inhibiting factor that, as it looks, is still more predominant is that the TMC could, rather incredibly to many, eventually put the unbroken 34 years long rule by the LF to an ignominious end.

That’s too fresh and bites too hard.

More so, as during the latter part of the rule — in particular, even the lower level functionaries, the little satraps — instead of being agents of (professed) mass/class struggle, used to wield (some) “power” — at the behest of and/or backed up by the state, not, always, without pecuniary benefits — that, only too often, goes with “power”, in a highly unequal society.

Looking into the Crystal Ball

“The assembly elections in Bengal are being portrayed as the most crucial ever for the people and character of the state. This is now essentially a two-party fight between the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress — or, as some analysts are pitching it, a two-personality fight between Amit Shah and Mamata Banerjee. The BJP says that if Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool wins again, "the appeasement of minorities will increase and the Hindu majority will suffer. Moreover there will be an atmosphere of violence and goonda-gardi [i.e. use of strong-arm methods]". The Trinamool says that if the BJP wins, "the basic character of Bengal will change forever, no longer will every community live in harmony, even the essence of Bengal’s history — crafted by Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda — will be broken as non-Bengali ’outsiders’ will rule Bengal from the centre."

“These polar-opposite views are, of course, outrageous and extreme — but they do underline the depth and intensity of how acutely divided Bengal politics is today.”[57]

This is the opening part of an introductory note to a, rather impressive and very recent, exercise in (voting) data crunching aimed at anticipating the likely outcome.

To its credit, it brings out and underlines the extent of heat that the coming poll has already generated and, also, delineates the two major contending campaign lines by the two opposing camps; apart from calling it a two-horse race — as almost all others are doing, of course, excepting the Left-Cong. camp.

At any rate, based on the, rather elaborate, data crunching, the subject write-up points out that in order to wrest West Bengal, the BJP needs a 2% swing in vote-share in its favour, taking the last 2019 parliamentary poll as the baseline.

“(A) 2 per cent swing in its favour over its record 2019 vote will give the BJP only a very narrow margin of victory — 155 seats compared with the TMC’s 130 seats. On the contrary, the downside is disastrous for the BJP. A 2 per cent swing away from the BJP will give it less than 100 seats and a landslide for Mamata’s TMC with 191 seats, which is 65 per cent of the total of 294 seats.”

Then, it proceeds to bring out: “The discomforting news for the BJP is that the party’s recent performance in assembly elections in other states over the last two years does not allow for much optimism.”

Further down the line: “In every single state assembly election since the 2019 Lok Sabha, the BJP has encountered a swing — in fact, large swings — against the party, ranging from -9 per cent to as much as -22 per cent. In the five bigger states that have held elections since 2019, the average swing against the BJP has been a huge 13 per cent. It is the systematic negative swing, without exception, that would be a major worry for the BJP.”

This point is, subsequently, yet more emphasised, in the following words: “Perhaps even more worrying for the BJP is that this negative trend started two years ago — in all the state assembly elections that took place in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections. In each of the five bigger states that held elections in the 12 months prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP did poorly — in fact, on average, 17 per cent worse than it did in these states during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Once again, in every single state there was a negative, poorer performance than in the general election.”

It postulates that (i) “the individual popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and (ii) “local leaders, local parties and state-specific issues” are the two factors — taken together, explain this dissonance.

To be sure, this argument makes mighty sense.

Even if, for whatever reasons, it overlooks the role of “Pulwama-Balakot” in triggering a spike in the vote-share of the BJP, even as compared to the preceding parliamentary poll — from 31.34% to 37.36%.[21]

To cut a longer story — with some more of data crunching, short, it goes on to suggest the possibility of a big comfortable win by the TMC, while acknowledging that one has to factor in the surprises that the remaining months may come up with.

Yet another analysis, of the broadly same genre — using a different methodology, postulates — in a somewhat similar vein, in conclusion:

“An AC [i.e. Assembly Constituency]-wise breakup puts the BJP and AITC tally at 121 and 164 respectively. The halfway mark in the West Bengal assembly is 147. While the BJP’s gains in the state between 2014 and 2019 have been stellar, the AITC has been able to hold it back in south and central Bengal, traditionally, strongholds of the latter. 67 of the 121 AC segments the BJP won in the 2019 Lok Sabha came from the 94 ACs in hills, north Bengal and the Jangalmahal sub-regions. Of the 33 and 167 ACs in central and south Bengal, the BJP could win only 6 and 48. The AITC, on the other hand won 119 out of the 167 ACs in South Bengal even in the 2019 elections. Just holding on to south Bengal will increase the AITC’s chances of remaining in power.”[58]
Neither of the two takes various relevant “political” factors — including developments since the last parliamentary poll, into account.

Both deal with only, already available, “hard” data.

It’s worth noting that both have considered the vote-shares of the TMC and BJP as variables, while, in effect, that of the Left (and also Congress) as given.

That, on the face of it, is a flawed assumption.

On the negative side — since the last poll, from the viewpoint of the TMC, it has suffered quite a few defections from its ranks, as had been mentioned above.[14] One of these recent defectors is, arguably, a big fish.[59] Since then, some more have defected[60] and yet more may still be in the pipeline.

Apart from the direct damage, these defections are likely to make, at least, some dent in the overall credibility of the TMC.

On the flip side, the TMC could manage the switch-over, from the NDA, of an influential leader of a regional party virtually dominating the scene in the northernmost hill areas.[61] This may to a significant extent offset the effects of the defections from the TMC ranks in crucial South Bengal.

Similarly — as pointed out above, also absent — in the above-referred analysis, is the possibility of the LF-Cong. alliance gaining or losing votes and its likely impacts on the performance of the two major contenders.

It, however, appears to be more likely that failing to project itself as a credible contender, the LF-Cong. alliance will suffer further haemorrhage; the BJP is likely to turn out to be the larger gainer.

Most of those of the LF, and Congress, voters, who are staunchly anti-BJP, conceivably, in order to halt the Modi juggernaut, had voted for the TMC in the last parliamentary poll itself. The residual 13% (= 7% + 6%) is, pretty likely, constituted primarily of those who’re bitterly anti-TMC and would tend to follow: “Ekushe Raam / Chhaabbishe Baam” (BJP in ’21 / Left in ’26).

This needs be taken into account, more so, given that in the preceding poll the gap in vote-shares of the two main contenders was pretty slender — just 3%points.[28]
That a very recent opinion survey has tagged the West Bengal CM as one of the most popular in the country[62] — if accurate, works, obviously, to her advantage — especially, this being a state poll.

As regards the issues to rise to the top, here’s quite an insightful observation:

“For the BJP, the conversion of Bengal’s cultural Hindu into a political Hindu is a long-standing project. It has invested a vast scale of resources in building a grassroots apparatus — there are tens of thousands of Sangh [i.e. RSS] volunteers across the state’s villages — and it has reason to draw confidence from its performance over just the last few years. In fact in the three years between the last assembly election in 2016 and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party’s strength rose from six assembly segments to 121. While Mamata Banerjee held onto her base, there was a distinct move from Left-supporting voters to the BJP in this time, leading to many “Baam se Ram” [from Left to BJP] memes.”[63]

So, the BJP would do its best (or ugliest?) to foment communal troubles/tensions (between the two major religious communities in the state) and polarise the society on religious lines.

Amit Shah had thought of — as is indicated by his earlier speeches (referred to in the foregoing), to deploy CAA/NRC as the major weapon.

However, on account of big setbacks suffered in the three assembly bypolls[64], subsequent to the parliamentary poll, this has, apparently, been shelved — at least for now.

The key to the shift in (Hindu) voters’ perception — that’d trigger the shift in BJP’s campaign line[65], is anchored in the — post parliamentary poll, publication of the NRC list of Assam[66] — an independent process, in which of all those excluded — over 1.9 million out of 33 million applicants, around two-thirds are estimated to be Bengali-speaking Hindus[67]. That pressed the panic button among their counterparts in West Bengal.

This shift — on the part of the Hindu nationalist BJP, one may assert with some confidence, is just tactical and temporary.

On the issue of governance etc., the BJP, despite its promise of ‘Sonar Bangla’[68] (Golden Bengal), has little to offer.

While it’s true that in 2014, it had come to power at the Centre, apart from triggering and accentuating religious frictions, by promising “development”, in a rather big way[69]; since then, it has lost its lustre with India’s economic performance dipping southward under the Modi regime — even before the pandemic[70]. This has since sharply worsened[71].

Moreover, given that the values championed by bulk of the celebrated icons — from Rammohun Roy to Satyajit Ray, of Bengal — Tagore being the only one, even if, no doubt, the most eminent and visible, of them — do so flagrantly conflict with BJP/RSS ideology[72] and having its primary support base among the Hindi-speakers of the state[73], “Sonar Bangla” — a (well-known) phrase borrowed from a Tagore’s song which would become the national anthem of (Muslim-majority) neighbouring Bangladesh[74], is pretty unlikely to strike a resonance among the ethnic Bengalis, in particular.

This dissonance is further captured and underlined by the ugly vilification campaign[75] against, arguably, the (only) living icon — yet another Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, by the saffron brigade.

It may further be added that the TMC has come back rather strongly on the charge of misgovernance of the state’s economy.[76]

Seemingly, the soft underbelly of the TMC is the charges of large-scale and also smaller-scale corruption against quite a few of its senior and even local leaders.[77] But, then, the BJP itself has an open-door policy for these “corrupt” elements[78], apart from the fact that at the all-India level its mascot Modi himself faces allegations of huge scams[79]. Incidentally, the Chief Minister herself enjoys a reasonably clean image[80] — as regards financial misdemeanours.

It’s hardly any wonder that, under the circumstances, the TMC would plunge for “Bengali pride” as its major poll plank.[81]

That’s the natural forte of a regional political party, regardless of whether the party concerned is a worthy standard-bearer of the traditions, which it claims to hold aloft.

Moreover, while the TMC has a “strong leader”, the BJP is yet unable to project a credible local face as its Chief Ministerial candidate[82]; that’s an added handicap[83].
It is precisely in that context, the announcement of the AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) — a Muslim political outfit known for its aggressive and abrasive brand of identity politics[84], headquartered in Hyderabad, assumes some significance.

Though the debutant AIMIM[85] is not expected to take away so many Muslim votes from the (non-sectarian) anti-BJP parties[86], it may nevertheless very well help the BJP[87] in polarising Hindu votes capitalising on its brand of aggressive identity politics[88] and trying to deploy some of the customary dirty tricks[89] in the kitty of the Hindu nationalist party.

It’d, however, be quite surprising if the NPR-NRC issue does not come up, in a rather big way, in the coming days — after the AIMIM takes positions in the field, in particular.
So, the AIMIM, at the moment, remains pretty much a dark horse — worth keeping an eye on.

Be that as it may, it’d, in this context, be pertinent to mention that an agency — ’C-Voter’, has, in the meanwhile — on Jan. 18th, come up, on the basis of an opinion poll carried out, with the following predictions:

“(T)he ruling TMC is projected to win close to 154-162 seats against the BJP’s 98-106 seats in the 294-member house in West Bengal. While the Congress and Left alliance is likely to get 26-34 seats.

“The TMC will poll 43 percent votes while the BJP will poll 37.5 percent votes, the survey said.”[90]

The Left+Cong.: 30 seats with 11.8% vote-share.[91]

Also relevant:

“In terms of the vote-share, the survey predicts that TMC could get 43% of the votes, a fall of just 2% points as compared to 2016.

“The BJP could get 37.5%, a massive rise of over 27%. The main loser appears to be the Left-Congress alliance, falling to 11.8%, compared to 32% in 2016.

“However, the BJP appears to have fallen a bit compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in which it got 40.6 percent of the votes and was leading in 122 Assembly segments.”[91]

As compared to the preceding parliamentary poll, as per these projections, the BJP, in terms of vote-share, suffers a marginal decline; so does the Left-Cong., while the TMC remains stable.

In India, the opinion, and even exit, polls quite often largely diverge and some, at least, go horribly wrong.[92]

Apart from that, the poll is still, most likely, around two-three months (or even less?) away[93] and that may turn out to be quite a long period; even the poll manifestos are yet to be released, candidates remain to be finalised, Left-Cong. seat sharing to be clinched.

Even more pertinently, (i) there could still be some more defections from the TMC — after announcement of candidates, in particular, and (ii) the impact of the AIMIM campaign, as and when it is launched, is, yet, somewhat an unknown quantity.

So these predictions are hardly anything more than yet another information input, to be duly taken note of.

To sum up, while the TMC, right at this moment, appears poised to worst the main challenger — the Hindu nationalist BJP, in the coming electoral contest: one has, nevertheless, to keep one’s fingers crossed, given (i) the time to elapse between now and actual polling, (ii) the BJP dramatically narrowing the gap — to about 3%points, with the TMC, in the immediately preceding poll, (iii) the possibility of a significant chunk of the residual vote-share of the Left-Cong. — around 13%, migrating to the saffron camp and (iv) the actual impact of the entry of the AIMIM — on the Hindu votes, in particular.
In Conclusion

I. The BJP is on the way to radically reconfigure "India" as a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu nation state) — by stripping it of all vestiges of substantive democracy and pluralism — on a permanent basis.

Too disastrous for the vast masses of Indians, and even more so for the Muslims (and Christians) and also those occupying the bottom rungs of the Hindu caste hierarchy, in particular.

II. An electoral victory in West Bengal would, in multiple ways, facilitate that fiendish project.

III. In the even more immediate, there would, in all likelihood, be a brutal roll-out of the monstrous NPR/NRC, which threatens to rob millions of their citizenship.
IV. The incumbent TMC government was among the very firsts to oppose NRC and commit itself to scuttle the launch of the NPR — the very first, and understandably the most critical, stage of the NRC.

V. As yet, the poll manifestos — rather understandably, remain to be released; there’s no talk, by the contenders, of any detailed roadmap for the next five years — beyond indications of some broad orientations.

VI. The Left is bitterly divided; while the LF (Left Front) appear to, in actual practice, remain wedded to "Ekushe Raam / Chhaabbishe Baam" (BJP in ’21 and Left in ’26), bulk of the non-party Left — including eminent individuals and also those associated with various civil society organisations/movements, and some sundry organised outfits — of which the CPI(ML)-Liberation is the most major, are mobilised and mobilising in favour of “No Vote to BJP” — or some variations thereof, not excluding ones more openly in favour of the main challenger[94].

Given the profoundly disturbing implications of a BJP victory, that looks mighty sensible.[95]

VII. Under the obtaining circumstances, the most appropriate call for the coming state poll would be: “Vote to Defeat BJP!”.

Feb. 01 2021

Notes and References:

[1] “The terms of the legislative assemblies of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry is coming to an end between May and June next year.”

(Ref.: ’Election Body Begins Preparations For 2021 Assembly Elections Due In 4 States, 1 Union Territory’ by PTI, dated December 18 2020, at https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/election-commission-begins-preparations-for-2021-assembly-elections-due-in-4-states-1-ut-2340200.)

[2] "India’s only female chief minister and the 64-year-old head of the Trinamool Congress party (TMC)—often described by the ruling establishment as an anarchist—would certainly win the award for fiercest critic of the Narendra Modi government."

(Ref.: ’Opinion: Why you should know more about Mamata Banerjee’ by Priya Ramani, dated February 8 2019, at https://www.livemint.com/mint-lounge/features/opinion-why-you-should-know-more-about-mamata-banerjee-1549599766560.html.)

[3] ’Mamata Banerjee [Chief Minister, West Bengal] compares BJP leadership to Hitler, Mussolini’, dated December 10 2020, at https://www.livemint.com/news/india/mamata-banerjee-compares-bjp-leadership-to-hitler-mussolini-11607620164516.html.

[4] Ref.: ’Amit Shah [the Union Home Minister and the de facto No.2 leader of the BJP — only next to Modi], JP Nadda [the national President of the BJP] to visit Bengal every month till end of assembly polls: State BJP Chief’ by PTI, dated November 18 2020, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/amit-shah-jp-nadda-to-visit-bengal-every-month-till-end-of-assembly-polls-state-bjp-chief/articleshow/79279270.cms.

[5] Ref.: ’From 2021, Amit Shah will visit Bengal every month for 7 days, says BJP’s Dilip Ghosh [State President]’ by Manogya Loiwal, dated Decmber 20, at https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/from-2021-amit-shah-visit-west-bengal-every-month-for-7-days-bjp-dilip-ghosh-1751280-2020-12-20.

[6] Ref.: ’Narendra Modi [the Prime Minister] to visit West Bengal every month till 2021 polls like Amit Shah, JP Nadda’ by SNS Web, dated December 24 2020, at https://www.thestatesman.com/bengal/narendra-modi-visit-west-bengal-every-month-till-2021-polls-like-amit-shah-jp-nadda-1502942499.html.

[7] Here’s a visual glimpse: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRD2OSdqHeOO1bObB3KHo-LZ4lijYGALs7itA&usqp=CAU.
Not for nothing, it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The picture shows the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister sharing the dais — seated next to each other, in the state capital at an event organised by the Union Government to celebrate (125th or 124th?) birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — an extremely gutsy and legendary freedom fighter — hailing from the state, on this Jan. 23rd.

Also relevant and insightful: ’"Taunted In Front Of PM": Mamata Banerjee Attacks BJP Over Netaji Event’ by Anindita Sanyal, dated January 25 2021, at https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/taunted-in-front-of-pm-mamata-banerjee-attacks-bjp-over-netaji-event-2357794?.

(Also watch the accompanying video clip.)

[8] Ref.: ’Home Ministry transfers 3 IPS officers incharge of JP Nadda’s security during Bengal tour’ by SNS Web, dated December 17 2020, at https://www.thestatesman.com/bengal/home-ministry-transfers-3-ips-officers-incharge-jp-naddas-security-bengal-tour-1502941241.html.

[9] Ref.: ’IPS officer caught in Centre-state tussle, promoted by Mamata Banerjee govt’, dated December 28 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ips-officer-caught-in-centre-state-tussle-promoted-by-mamata-banerjee-govt/story-FWFFINYzD40HraLZpz5NCI.html.

[10] Ref.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNJt29BHDr8, dated December 23 2020.

[11] Ref.: ’West Bengal Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) Election Results 2017’ at https://www.elections.in/west-bengal/assembly-constituencies/.

[12] Ref.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuf3ocgdTnU , dated November 06 2020.

[13] Ref.: ’Amit Shah predicts BJP’s win with over 200 seats in 2021 Bengal Assy polls’, dated December 19 2020, at http://www.uniindia.com/amit-shah-predicts-bjp-s-win-with-over-200-seats-in-2021-bengal-assy-polls/east/news/2268462.html.

[14] Ref.: ’10 MLAs join BJP at Amit Shah’s Bengal rally’ by HT Correspondent, dated December 20 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/10-mlas-join-bjp-at-amit-shah-s-bengal-rally/story-eH4UnEWJMEWJmMgi4p2XjM.html.

[15] Ref.: ’BJP Will Struggle To Cross Double-Digit Mark In Bengal Assembly Polls: Prashant Kishor’ by PTI, dated December 21 2020 at https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-bjp-will-struggle-to-cross-double-digit-mark-in-bengal-assembly-polls-prashant-kishor/367898.

[16] "Mam[a]ta Banerjee is known for her changing moods, short temper and quicksilver tongue that spares no one." (Ref.: ’Why is Mamata Banerjee the choice of everyone today in West Bengal?’ by Arta Mishra, dated March 15 2019, at https://www.quora.com/Why-is-Mamata-Banerjee-the-choice-of-everyone-today-in-West-Bengal.

[17] Ref.: ’BJP is a ’cheatingbaaz’ (habitual cheater) party, [Amit] Shah speaks a ‘garbage of lies’: Mamata Banerjee’ by Srishti P, dated Decmber 21 2020, at https://in.news.yahoo.com/bjp-is-a-cheatingbaaz-party-shah-speaks-a-garbage-of-lies-mamata-banerjee-144053021.html.

Also look up, e.g.: ’‘Garbage of lies, BJP a party of cheats’ — Mamata rebuts Amit Shah’s statements in Bengal’ by Madhuparna Das, dated December 21 2020, at https://theprint.in/politics/garbage-of-lies-bjp-a-party-of-cheats-mamata-rebuts-amit-shahs-statements-in-bengal/571334/.

[18] Ref.: ’As India enters 2021, Narendra Modi’s Hindutva project is on a roll’ by Shyam Tekwani, dated December 21 2020, at https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3114748/india-enters-2021-narendra-modis-hindutva-project-roll.

Especially relevant: "Galvanised by Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, Hindutva took root with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by an RSS disciple in 1948. The idea of a Hindu India bloomed with the 1992 destruction of a 16th-century mosque by Hindu mobs and the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, which enabled the party’s victory in 2014, with Modi as its CEO intent on remaking India into an authoritarian, Hindu nationalist state.

"An interim progress report of the project would conclude that with two defining elections looming and muted international responses to India’s tenacious efforts to downgrade its 200 million Muslims into second-class citizens, the Modi government will accelerate the project in 2021."

[19] Ref.: https://www.constitutionofindia.net/constitution_of_india/preamble .

[20] Ref.: ’Ramachandra Guha: Under cover of Covid-19, Modi regime has stepped up its attack on Indian democracy’ by Ramachandra Guha, dated January 3 at https://scroll.in/article/982977/ramachandra-guha-under-cover-of-covid-19-modi-regime-has-stepped-up-its-attack-on-indian-democracy?fbclid=IwAR0UNEieOzoIwzI2cF8a2I4im3EQz51MCNm3sBeJu920ju8tUnNS7cdl-QQ.

Also profoundly relevant: "This deeply charged invocation of the people (by the Modi regime) has been a disruptive force in a democracy. It is otiose to deny its ability to politically mobilise, especially in the absence of any counter prophetic narrative that is more elevating. But its overwhelming danger should be apparent. For one thing, the people in this construction are an abstraction, unified and marching to the same drum beat. The minute any actual people assert their reservations, express their individuality, or pose pragmatic facts against wild prophecy, they are immediately branded as being outside of the pale of the people, they are the anti-nationals. So the rhetoric of the people can be turned against groups of actual people, one at a time. It is an enemy of both freedom and fraternity.

"It is a threat to individual freedom because it has no commitment to its value. Concrete individuals, with their own histories and concerns, temperament and ambitions, loves and identities, are of no interest and are a threat, if they are not drum beating for the prophetic cause. It is an enemy of whatever fraternity exists, because it is deeply communal: The only deliverance it can promise is the dominance of that ugly construct, Hindutva, whose content is nothing but the raw assertion of power."

(Ref.: ’We need a new language to speak of the people, avoid the old impasse’ by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, dated January 1 2020, at https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-democracy-covid-pandemic-pb-mehta-new-year-7128145/.)

[21] Ref.: ’India — 2019 Parliamentary Poll: Outcome, Drivers, Consequences — An Exploration’ by Sukla Sen, dated June 15 2020. (Also available, in original format, at https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSX4J7wt12TDUlBKNQ_x1AiIPFvYKiNay001ceKe6qrZD9kAy_8sdtYNE25Jbwk0A/pub.)

Quite relevant here is an informed, and similar, assessment from the radical Left, which, it needs be taken note of, is, however, somewhat less "alarmist" as regards the coming days and also the intentions of the regime: "One can summarize the ambitions and the policies and actions it is now likely to pursue under four basic themes: 1) Expanding its political presence and dominance even further and thereby permanently eroding and displacing all opposition parties. 2) Keeping Muslims in their place. 3) Not eliminating the structures of democracy but hollowing it out from within. 4) Ideological homogenization:". (Ref.: ’The Indian Catastrophe’ by Achin Vanaik, dated May 30 2019, at https://jacobinmag.com/2019/05/india-elections-bjp-modi-hindu-nationalism.

For a brief look into the dynamics of growth of Hindu nationalism in India, since the colonial days, one may look up: ’Indian Nationalism, Hindutva and the Bomb’ by Sukla Sen, dated September 28 2003, at http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article10225.

For way more exhaustive and comprehensive treatments: (i) ’The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India’ by Craig Baxter and Christophe Jaffrelot, The Journal of Asian Studies, dated May 1999 (ref.:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248653997_The_Hindu_Nationalist_Movement_in_India) and (ii) ’Communalism contested: Religion, modernity and secularization’ by Achin Vanaik, Vistaar, dated January 1, 1997.

[22] Ref.: ’NO CAA! NO NRC! NO NPR!’ by Sukla Sen, dated December 16 29019, at https://cab2019awareness.home.blog/2019/12/16/naa-to-caa-india-must-rise-against-caa-nrc-to-halt-the-approaching-huge-chaos-and-fiendish-genocide/.

[23] Ref.: ’BJP unveils 2019 manifesto, vows to bring NRC across country if it retains power’ by Express Web Desk, dated April 9 2019, at https://indianexpress.com/elections/bjp-election-manifesto-national-register-of-citizens-5664960/.

[24] Ref.: ’Sankalp Patra’ at https://www.bjp.org/en/manifesto2019.

[25] "BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday hit out at the West Bengal government for encouraging infiltrators to settle in the state, saying “infiltrators are termites and we will weed them out when we come back to power”. Speaking at Raiganj, Shah said, “The BJP would introduce NRC across the country and grant citizenship to each and every Hindu refugee in the country”, while accusing Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of misleading the people on the NRC." (Ref.: ’Infiltrators are termites, BJP will weed them out, says Amit Shah’, dated April 12 2019, at https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2019/apr/12/shah-infiltrators-are-termites-bjp-will-weed-them-out-1963206.html.) It was in the run-up to the last parliamentary poll and, it deserves being noted, Shah inaugurated his campaign on the NRC on the soil of West Bengal. That, in its own way, testifies to how the state of West Bengal is intimately linked with the issues of both "termites" and NRC — from the viewpoint of the Hindu nationalist BJP.

[26] Ref.: https://twitter.com/amitshah/status/1120275890871521280?lang=en, dated April 22 2019, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z__6E5hPbHg, dated April 23 2019.

Shah, now as the Union Home Minister, under Modi 2.0 — since June 1 2019 (ref.: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/amit-shah-takes-charge-home-minister-5-challenges-he-faces-ahead-1540133-2019-06-01), would continue in that vein at least till October 2019 (ref.: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/nrc-to-be-implemented-in-bengal-asserts-amit-shah/articleshow/71394111.cms?from=mdr), with a special focus on West Bengal, before beating a sort of minor retreat in the following December (ref.: https://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/nrc-will-be-brought-in-soon-do-not-link-it-with-cab-amit-shah-119121000050_1.html).

[27] Ref.: ’Prasenjit Bose’ at https://www.indiatoday.in/youthsummit/kolkata/2013/speakers-bios/Prasenjit-Bose.jsp.

[28] Ref.: ’The BJP is at the gates in West Bengal’ by Prasenjit Bose, dated December 29 2020, at https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-bjp-is-at-the-gates-in-west-bengal/article33439448.ece.

[29] Ref.: ’THE CITIZENSHIP (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2019’ at http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2019/214646.pdf.

[30] Ref.: ’Palk Strait’ at https://www.britannica.com/place/Palk-Strait.

[31] Ref.: ’Preventing genocide in Myanmar: Court [ICJ] order tries to protect Rohingya Muslims where politics has failed’, dated January 30 2020, at https://theconversation.com/preventing-genocide-in-myanmar-court-order-tries-to-protect-rohingya-muslims-where-politics-has-failed-130530.

[32] Ref.: ’Appointment of alleged war criminal to head of Sri Lanka army ‘deeply troubling’, says UN human rights chief’, dated August 19 2019, at https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/08/1044501.

Also: “The United Nations human rights chief has called for an International Criminal Court investigation into Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist conflict and sanctions on military officials accused of war crimes, according to a report obtained by the AFP news agency.”Michelle Bachelet accused Sri Lanka of reneging on promises to ensure justice for thousands of civilians killed in the final stages of the 37-year separatist war that ended 10 years ago.”

(Ref.: ’UN rights chief seeks sanctions against Sri Lankan generals: AFP’, dated January 27 2021, at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/27/un-rights-chief-seeks-sanctions-against-sri-lankan-generals-afp.

[33] "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth".

(Ref.: ’Article 14 in The Constitution Of India 1949’ at https://indiankanoon.org/doc/367586/.)

[34] Ref.: ’Right to Equality: Concept and Explanation | Article 14-18’ at https://www.legalbites.in/right-to-equality-article-14-18.

[35] ""The rules of the CAA are yet to be framed as such a massive process could not be carried out because of the corona. As soon as (COVID) vaccination starts and corona cycle breaks, we will consider it," he said."

(Ref.: ’CAA rules yet to be framed; will consider once COVID-19 vaccination begins: Amit Shah’ by PTI, dated December 21 2020, at https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/caa-rules-yet-to-be-framed-will-consider-once-covid-19-vaccination-begins-amit-shah/story/425506.html.

That’s too laughable an alibi.

Just to illustrate, with the pandemic raging, the regime bulldozed three highly controverted farm laws through the parliament and notified in the gazette, to put these immediately into effect; while with the pandemic abating, it cancelled the scheduled winter session of the parliament — on the ground of the pandemic, to avert any discussion on the ongoing tumultuous farmers’ agitations against the three Acts.

Similarly, rules are to be framed by bureaucrats who are all on duty.

Bihar state poll was held, with public meetings and all, during this period.

In any case, the rules could very well have had been framed even before the Union Government took note of the pandemic and, thereafter, clamped down “lockdown” on and from March 25th last (ref.: https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=200655).

[36] Ref.: ’Protests against CAA intensify across country: How Indian newspapers covered the stir’ by India Today Web Desk, dated December 20 2019, at https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/protests-against-caa-intensify-across-country-how-indian-newspapers-covered-stir-1629930-2019-12-20.

[37] "The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) has urged the government to prepare a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in all the northeastern states to identify the foreigners living illegally in the region.

...

"He pointed out that instead of taking effective steps to deal with the problem of infiltration of foreigners, the Government of India brought in the CAA, which posed another threat to the indigenous people of the region.

"The NESO observed ‘black day’ all over the region on December 11 to protest against the CAA."

(Ref.: ’NESO seeks NRC in all states of Northeast’ by NE NOW NEWS, dated December 27 2020, at https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/neso-seeks-nrc-in-all-states-of-northeast.html.)

So, this is opposition to the CAA bundled with a demand for a stringent NRC.

[38] "Congress spokesperson Ajai Maken said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that there was no discussion on NRC and the Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said there is no link between NPR and NRC. “But-look at 2018-19 Annual Report of the Union Home Ministry. Pg 262- ‘NPR is first step towards creation of NRIC.’ Shame-PM shouldn’t lie,” tweeted Maken.

"The CPI (M) said the amendment of the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the rules notified on December 10, 2003 by the then Vajpayee government is the basis on which the NRC is prepared.

"“It is clear that the NPR is the first stage of the exercise to implement the NRC,” the party said.

"The party also cited an answer to a question in Rajya Sabha by the Minister of State for Home Affairs in 2014 that said the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) will be made based on the information collected under the scheme of NPR. “Notwithstanding the untruths of PM Modi, it is abundantly clear that the NPR will lay the foundation for the NRC. At least 12 Chief Ministers have announced that the NRC will not be implemented in their States. The Chief Ministers of Kerala and West Bengal have decided not to proceed on the NPR as well,” the statement said."

(Ref.: ’NPR is first step of NRC, Opposition says citing govt records’ by Our Bureau, dated December 24 2019, at https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/npr-is-first-step-of-nrc-opposition-says-citing-govt-records/article30390349.ece.
[39] Ref.: ’Understanding NRC: What it is and if it can be implemented across the country’, dated December 23 2019, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/et-explains/is-a-pan-india-nrc-possible-the-lesson-from-assam/articleshow/72454225.cms.

[40] For the experience of Assam, please look up: (i) ’19 lakh NRC-excluded stuck in limbo’ by Rahul Karmakar, dated August 21 2020, at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/19-lakh-nrc-excluded-stuck-in-limbo/article32481385.ece and ’The NRC in Assam doesn’t just violate human rights of millions — it also breaks international law’ by Mohsin Alam Bhat and Aashish Yadav, dated January 7 2021, at https://scroll.in/article/983130/the-nrc-in-assam-doesnt-just-violate-human-rights-it-also-breaks-international-law.

[41] Ref.: ’Election results 2011: Mamata creates history in West Bengal; Jayalalithaa to be CM again’, dated https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/election-results-2011-mamata-creates-history-in-west-bengal-jayalalithaa-to-be-cm-again/articleshow/8290563.cms?from=mdr.

[42] Ref.: (I) ’Singur and Nandigram and The Untold Story of Capitalised Marxism’, Editors: Dola Sen and Debasish Bhattacharya, dated January 30 2007, at http://aitcofficial.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/snn.pdf: (II) ’‘The blessed land’: narratives of peasant resistance at Nandigram, West Bengal, in 2007’ by Adam McConnochie, Victoria University of Wellington, 2012, at https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10063/2145/thesis.pdf?sequence=2: (III) ’On Nandigram: A Rejoinder to the Calumny of Jayati Ghosh’ by Sukla Sen, November 23 2007, at https://kafila.online/2007/11/23/on-nandigram-a-rejoinder-to-the-calumny-of-jayati-ghosh-sukla-sen/; (IV) ’In the wake of Lalgarh’ by Sujato Bhadra, ’Seminar’, March 2010, at https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/17278/1/2010/607/607_sujato_bhadra.htm.

[43] Ref.: ’What the Left Front did wrong in West Bengal’ by Ashok Mitra, dated May 20 2011, at https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/with-no-apologies-what-the-left-front-did-wrong-in-west-bengal/cid/397825.

The author, it deserves being specifically noted, was a leading intellectual associated with the CPI(M) — sort of jewel in the crown (ref.: https://mronline.org/2018/05/03/ashok-mitra-the-doyen-among-left-intellectuals-in-india/), and for long — close to a decade, served as the Finance Minister in the LF Cabinet since its inception in 1977. Would subsequently be sent to the Rajya Sabha. Regardless of his independent stature and strong views — admittedly discordant at times, he had, at heart, remained very much a faithful and no dissident by any stretch. Even in 2011, despite his advanced age etc. he had come out of his hibernation to campaign for the Party/LF (ref.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR7oa7uPKnw).

That makes his, rather elaborately argued, analysis of the electoral debacle — from the vantage point of a sort of detached insider, all the more noteworthy.

[44] Here’s a representative, graphic, illustration: "The farmers in Singur were taken aback when they spotted a yellow Nano with a red flag followed by group of people shouting, ’Chashir durdasha ghonchabo, Nano ke amra ferabo’ [We’ll end the misery of the peasants / We’ll bring back the Nano]. Inside the small car, there was Rabin Deb, a senior leader of CPM and the candidate of the party fielded in Singur. Deb on Thursday started his election campaign in Singur and a CPM campaign without a mention of Nano is unusual in Singur. Almost 10 years after the Singur land movement, which drove the Tata Motors out of the state and voted the Left Front government out of power, is still the only political issue in this area."

(Ref.: ’CPM leader Rabin Deb uses Tata Nano as poll plank in Singur’ by Madhuparna Das, dated Mar 11 2016, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/cpm-leader-rabin-deb-uses-tata-nano-as-poll-plank-in-singur/articleshow/51355429.cms?.)

Singur — its spirited struggle against the attempted forcible acquisition of cultivable lands for the contemplated Nano car factory, as has been already underlined above (ref. Note: [41] I., in particular), was the very first trigger for the mass upsurge that’d, eventually, result in the termination of the 34-years long, unbroken, Left Front rule.

In the event, the subject CPI(M) candidate — a veteran leader, here, would, rather unsurprisingly, be roundly defeated. (Ref.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singur_(Vidhan_Sabha_constituency).)

Some arrogance and self-righteousness!

[45] "In 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power in Delhi, the BJP ruled just seven states [while, by March 2018, it became 21 states where the party got to hold or share power]."

(Ref.: ’21 states are now BJP-ruled, home to 70 per cent of Indians’ by Anil Sasi, dated March 5 2018, at https://indianexpress.com/article/india/21-states-are-now-bjp-ruled-home-to-70-per-cent-of-indians-5085205/.)

[46] "The BJP-IPFT combine scripted history today by winning the Tripura Assembly polls, ending 25 years of uninterrupted rule of the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the state. ...

"It had secured less than two per cent votes in the 2013 Assembly election in the state. According to an EC source, the BJP, which contested in 51 seats in Tripura, has secured over 42 per cent of the votes. Among the winning candidates in the BJP were Biplab Deb, its state unit president. Its ally IPFT, which fielded candidates in nine seats, got nearly 8 per cent votes. On the other hand, the CPI(M)-led Left Front, which had captured 50 of the 60 seats in the 2013 Assembly polls, is expected to secure nearly 44 per cent this time, the EC source said."

(Ref.: ’Tripura Election Results 2018: BJP-IPFT combine scripts history, captures 23 seats in the state’ by PTI, dated March 3 2018, at https://www.financialexpress.com/elections/tripura-election-results-2018-bjp-ipft-combine-scripts-history-captures-23-seats-in-the-state/1086542/.)

[47] "Analysis of the 2019 poll results showed that the biggest contributor to the BJP’s stunning performance were voters who were loyal to the CPI(M) and its partners for more than three decades. Out of 40 Left candidates in the race, 39 lost their election deposit as they failed to secure one sixth of the votes cast in their respective seats."

(Ref.: ’For TMC and BJP, swing in Left, Congress votes can be crucial in Bengal polls’ by Tanmay Chatterjee, dated January 13 2021, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/for-tmc-and-bjp-swing-in-left-congress-votes-can-be-crucial-in-bengal-polls-101610546644561.html.)

[48] "CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has said there is no confusion about who is the primary political adversary for his party in West Bengal.

"Speaking to The Hindu, he said, “To defeat the BJP, which is the priority, it is necessary to defeat the TMC [Trinamool Congress] too.”

"In an earlier interview to the Bengali newspaper Ganashakti, Mr. Yechury had said that in West Bengal, there was a need to defeat the BJP “isolating and defeating the Trinamool.” “The Trinamool had prepared the road of entry for the BJP in Bengal. The BJP has strengthened its foothold with the help from the Trinamool. The Trinamool was in alliance with the BJP. The present Chief Minister was a Union Cabinet Minister in NDA governments [between May 1999 and May 2004 — in two instalments]. Their credibility in fighting the BJP is very low in the first place,” he was quoted as saying."

(Ref.: ’To defeat BJP, it is necessary to defeat Trinamool: Yechury’, dated November 20 2020, at https://www.city24x7.news/index.php/2020/11/20/to-defeat-bjp-it-is-necessary-to-defeat-trinamool-yechury/.)

Despite the somewhat tangled nature of the argument, under the pressure of distancing oneself from the BJP — given the pan-national implications, the (implicit?) sequence can hardly be missed: First, defeat the TMC (in Bengal), then, and then only, one can be able to defeat the BJP (at the Centre).

This, however, had, to be marginally tinkered with — about a fortnight later, in, presumably, response to the (adverse) reactions it would spark off: "“Our primary objective is to defeat the BJP. But in West Bengal, anti-incumbency and anti-TMC anger are deep-rooted. Here, if we stand in a coalition against the BJP, then all the anti-TMC votes will swing towards the BJP. So, we have to counter both the BJP and the TMC here. Otherwise, the BJP will benefit. We should also be alert to ensure anti-incumbency votes do not go to the BJP,” CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury told reporters after a meeting of the party’s state committee."

(Ref.: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/yechury-key-to-counter-both-tmc-bjp-in-bengal-7132939/.)

That, nevertheless, doesn’t signify any real shift from the earlier stated position.

This position, as the ground reports indicate, has been translated by (many of) the followers at the grassroots level into a more earthly lingo as: "Ekushe Raam / Chhabbishe Baam" (BJP in ’21 / Left in ’26).

That appears to be the key operating principle for many; though, it’s, definitely, not the "formal" stand.

Its earlier version had, in a way, been implemented in 2019, as the poll outcome then bears out.

[49] "Asserting that the BJP should be identified as "political enemy number one", CPI (ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya on Saturday said that the TMC and the saffron party shouldn’t be clubbed in the same bracket, and the Left and the Congress should first deal with the "bigger threat" in West Bengal. Noting that the CPI (M) lacks the "anti-BJP thrust" needed to counter the "divisive force" in West Bengal..."

(Ref.: ’BJP bigger enemy than TMC in Bengal: CPI-ML leader Dipankar Bhattacharya’, dated November 21 2020, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/bjp-bigger-enemy-than-tmc-in-bengal-cpi-ml-leader-dipankar-bhattacharya/articleshow/79335989.cms?from=mdr.)

This clearly contrasts with the position taken by Yechury and is further explicated here: "I’m saying that first of all, the Left should be very clear that the thrust has to be squarely against the BJP. There cannot be any mix-up. So far, many of the Left parties have been treating the Trinamool as the No. 1 target..." (at https://cpiml.net/liberation/2020/12/lessons-from-bihar-excerpts-from-interviews-with-comrade-dipankar).

[50] "A section of Anti-Bharatiya Janata Party Left groups and individuals together have launched a campaign— No Vote To BJP in Kolkata on Monday (Jan. 4 2021) under a forum named ‘Bengal against Fascist RSS-BJP’ urging people of the state not to vote for the BJP in the coming assembly poll.

"Most of the activists, both of Naxalite and non-Naxalite origins who joined the citizens convention recalled the pre-lockdown growing agitation against the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah regime’s communalised citizenship matrix— CAA-NRC-NPR. They wanted to regain the momentum in the context of the assembly poll before it is too late."

(Ref.: ’No Vote to BJP: Activists launch campaign in Kolkata before Assembly Polls’ by Biswajit Roy, dated January 5 2021, at https://enewsroom.in/no-vote-to-bjp-campaign-kolkata-assembly-polls/.)

There’re also some other sundry autonomous initiatives broadly in sync with the above.

The very opening lines from a longish press statement issued, two days thereafter — on Jan. 6th, by a similar/overlapping initiative: "Right at this moment West Bengal stands at a crossroads. A dangerously harmful and monstrously threatening political party — from the viewpoint of the common masses, the BJP, is just desperate to "capture" the state."

(Translated from Bengali original.)

(Ref.: https://www.facebook.com/BengalAgainstFascistRSSBJP.)

That, arguably, quite aptly captures the utterly grim mood.

[51] Ref.: ’Support Mamata against BJP’s divisive tactics: TMC urges Congress, Left parties’ by Express News Service, dated January 14 2021, at https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/kolkata/tmc-appeals-to-left-congress-to-support-mamata-in-fight-against-bjp-7144786/.

[52] "“This (voting for BJP) was the natural tendency among those for whom the priority was relief from terror and repression by TMC. And the section that wants to protect the secular fabric voted for TMC. This [is] the result of an extreme polarisation between BJP and TMC. This polarisation is squeezing out the democratic space for other parties,” Yechury said at a press conference [on June 4 2019]."

(Ref.: ’Left supporters voted for BJP in Bengal, admits Sitaram Yechury; voters found BJP a credible force, says Congress MP’ by HT Correspondent, dated June 4 2019, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/left-supporters-voted-for-bjp-in-bengal-admits-sitaram-yechury-voters-found-bjp-a-credible-force-says-congress-mp/story-PHiYFh6NkXCewiSoen0B0M.html?.)

[53] The likelihood — if not inevitability outright, of such violence being unleashed had, by this observer, been anticipated, incidentally, well in advance: "(G)oing beyond the immediate [i.e. the immediate aftermath of the 2009 parliamentary poll], given the culture of brutal violence and retribution that has been nurtured over the decades [in the state of West Bengal], one only shudders in terror at imagining the prospects that would follow in the event of the rather likely defeat of the Left in the next assembly election [in 2011]. The track record and lumpen character of the Trinamool hardly provides any reassurance. Perhaps only such nightmarish visions would come to the eventual rescue. One can only hope."

(Ref.: ’15th Lok Sabha Election in India: The Right Is Snubbed, Left Faces Debacle’ by Sukla Sen, dated May 18 2009, at http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article13794.)

That is how the write-up concluded following a rapid scan of the political developments in the state preceding the subject poll.

One may also look up, for a more exhaustive analytical account of the political forces at play: ’Trinamool Must Check Its Own Intolerance to Counter the Rise of BJP in Bengal’ by Jawhar Sircar, dated July 29 2019, at https://thewire.in/politics/west-bengal-tmc-bjp-mamata-banerjee-hindutva.

[54] "(D)uring the reign of Congress Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, [he] oversaw killings of hundreds of Naxals and CPM activists during the early to mid-1970s."

(Ref.: ’Bloodied Bengal and Its Bhadralok’ by Jaideep Mazumdar, dated July 23 2009, at https://openthemagazine.com/features/india/bloodied-bengal-and-its-bhadralok/.)
[55] Ref.: ’It’s official: Congress announces alliance with Left front for Bengal assembly elections’ by Manoj C G, dated December 25 2020, at https://indianexpress.com/article/india/congress-left-front-alliance-west-bengal-assembly-elections-7118377/.

The seat sharing talks are on and yet to conclude: https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/congress-lf-leaders-hold-seat-sharing-talks-in-poll-bound-west-bengal-101610871083810.html .

[56] Ref.: ’Rahul’s lal salaam: Informal Congress-CPM alliance in West Bengal opens up intriguing political spaces’, dated April 7 2016, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-editorials/rahuls-lal-salaam/.

[57] Ref.: ’The Bengal Election - Who’s Winning?’ by NDTV Election Desk, dated December 22 2020, at https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/the-bengal-election-whos-winning-2341797.

[58] Ref.: ’West Bengal polls and the possible role of defections’ by Roshan Kishore and Abhishek Jha, dated December 21 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/west-bengal-polls-and-the-possible-role-of-defections/story-2NDBwrGLc4udHx5MIPoXjI.html.

[59] Ref.: (i) ’Explained: The importance of Suvendu Adhikari — to Trinamool Congress and BJP’ by Santanu Chowdhury, dated November 27 2020, at https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-the-importance-of-minister-suvendu-adhikari-to-trinamool-bjp-7051063/ and (ii) ’Hullabaloo Over Suvendu Adhikari Quitting Bengal Govt, But is He Really a Heavyweight or All Hype?’ by Sujit Nath, dated November 28 2020, at https://www.news18.com/news/politics/hullabaloo-over-suvendu-adhikari-quitting-bengal-govt-but-is-he-really-a-heavyweight-or-all-hype-3125141.html.

The declaration by the West Bengal Chief Minister that she’d, shifting from her traditional seat, contest from the seat held by Adhikari also goes to underscore the impact of this specific defection:

(Ref.: ’Will defeat Mamata by 50,000 votes or quit politics: Suvendu Adhikari on Battle Nandigram’ by Indrajit Kundu, dated January 18, at https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/story/will-defeat-mamata-by-50-000-votes-or-quit-politics-suvendu-adhikari-on-battle-nandigram-1760282-2021-01-18.)

[60] Ref.: ’Rajib Banerjee, five TMC leaders join BJP after meeting Amit Shah’ by TNN, dated January 31 2021, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/rajib-five-tmc-leaders-join-bjp-after-meeting-shah/articleshow/80607489.cms.

[61] Ref.: ’Bimal Gurung quits NDA, pledges support to TMC: Who is he and how will this impact West Bengal politics?’, dated October 22 2020, at https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/bimal-gurung-quits-nda-pledges-support-to-tmc-who-is-he-and-how-will-this-impact-west-bengal-politics/671213.

[62] “Among the poll-bound states, the Chief Ministers of Kerala, West Bengal and Assam have scored way better than the national average, thus indicating a pro-incumbency sentiment in these states as far as Chief Minister candidates are concerned [emphasis added]. The Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry are among the bottom lot as far as satisfaction ratings are concerned, indicating anti-incumbency sentiments brewing up in these states, the survey found.”

(Ref.: ’BJP Chief Ministers are least popular, says survey’, dated January 16 2021, at https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/bjp-chief-ministers-are-least-popular-says-survey-199305.)

[63] Ref.: ’How the TMC is fighting the BJP juggernaut in Bengal’ by Barkha Dutt, dated December 25 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/how-the-tmc-is-fighting-the-bjp-juggernaut-in-bengal/story-QS56rrxHDNMy3wkzYm8Y9I.html.
[64] “The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has swept the assembly by-polls winning all the three assembly seats in the state.

“Mamata Banerjee-led TMC has won the Kaliaganj seat in North Dinajpur and has also snatched the prestigious Kharagpur seat from BJP in West Midnapore district.

“The Kharagpur seat fell vacant after Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh got elected to Lok Sabha from Medinipur earlier this year. Interestingly, TMC has not just won the seat which gave BJP a lead of nearly 40,000 votes in Lok Sabha polls but it has also regained lost ground with a handsome lead of over 18,000 votes in less than six months.”

(Ref.: ’West Bengal bypoll results 2019: With sweep, TMC regains ground lost after Lok Sabha debacle’ by Indrajit Kundu, dated November 28 2019, at https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/west-bengal-bypoll-results-2019-tmc-regains-lost-ground-after-lok-sabha-debacle-1623415-2019-11-28.)

[65] “The Bharatiya Janata Party, which championed the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC), is now downplaying the implementation of CAA and has virtually dropped the NRC five months ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Bengal.

“While interacting with the media, after the completion of a two-day visit in West Bengal, home minister Amit Shah said: “Rules for CAA are yet to be framed. Because of coronavirus, the exercise on CAA cannot take place. When the vaccination process starts and we manage to break the cycle of the coronavirus, we will think about it.”

“When the reporter pressed on the NRC issue, Shah dodged the question.

...

“Interestingly, five months before the bypolls, BJP was leading in the parliamentary election in two of these three segments with over 45,000 votes. Riding on the NRC issue, TMC managed to reverse the Lok Sabha trend.

...

“For consecutive days, Banerjee marched crisscrossing Kolkata and adjoining Howrah.
“As long as I am alive, I will never implement the citizenship law or NRC in the state. We will continue to protest democratically till this law is scrapped. If they want to implement it in Bengal, they will have to do it over my dead body,” she then said. Students, artists, people from civil society poured in as her rallies swelled up.

“But even those had [read: did not have] much deterrence. Just before the outbreak of COVID-19, Amit Shah, while speaking at a rally in Rajasthan, said, “We won’t backtrack even an inch on the Citizenship Amendment Act.”

...

“Since March last year, a lot has been changed. Now, the BJP is deliberately side-stepping from the CAA issue and dropping the NRC for the time being.

“A top BJP leader from Bengal, who wished not to be named, told The Wire, “The party has done an internal survey on CAA and NRC, and after a critical assessment the leaders decided to make these not an issue for the upcoming poll.”

(Ref.: ’Ahead of Bengal Elections, Why Is BJP Softening Its Stance on CAA [and NRC]?’ by Himadri Ghosh, dated December 21 2020, at https://thewire.in/politics/bengal-polls-bjp-caa-nrc-citizenship.)

[66] “Finally, on 31 August 2019, the final NRC list was published: 19,06,657 out of the 3,30,27,661 applicants were excluded. The Office of the State Coordinator published the list on its website.”

(Ref.: ’Assam’s National Register of Citizens’ at https://www.scobserver.in/court-case/assam-s-national-register-of-citizens.)

[67] “The spectre of NRC implementation is fast turning Bengal into a political battleground, with the TMC appearing to have an advantage over the BJP after the omission of a large number of Hindu Bengalis from the register in saffron party-ruled Assam.

“The demand for the NRC exercise to weed out infiltrators has been gaining momentum since last year in the state, which shares over 2000-km-long border with Bangladesh.

“However, the publication of the final NRC list in Assam, which left out over 19.6 lakh people — of which around 12 lakh are Hindus and Bengali Hindus — has changed the political narrative in the state to a great extent.”

(Ref.: ’Exclusion of Hindu Bengalis from Assam NRC changing political [narrative]’ by Press Trust of India, dated September 22, 2019, at https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/exclusion-of-hindu-bengalis-from-assam-nrc-changing-political-119092200259_1.html.)

 [68]Ref.: ’Amit Shah seeks a chance for BJP in Bengal, promises ‘Sonar Bangla’ in 5 years’ by Kanishka Sarkar, dated November 6 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/amit-shah-seeks-a-chance-for-bjp-in-bengal-promises-sonar-bangla-in-5-years/story-YauuRov037TqMiwBMSrbGI.html.

[69] “This [i.e. Modi’s poll campaign in 2014] was further accentuated by his call of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas!”25 (With All, Development of All!). Also tersely captured in the slogan/promise of “Acche Din!”26 (Better Days!).

“This had gained considerable credibility based on the, skilfully constructed and forcefully propagated, narrative of “Gujarat (the state of which Modi was the Chief Minister by then for well over a decade) model of development”.”

(Ref.: Note 21 above.)

[70] Ref.: ’Narendra Modi is damaging India’s economy as well as its democracy’, dated October 24 2019, at https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/10/24/narendra-modi-is-damaging-indias-economy-as-well-as-its-democracy.

[71] Ref.: ’With GDP Slump Of 7.5%, India Now Among Worst Performing Major Economies’ by Nikita Prasad, dated November 28 2020, at https://www.ndtv.com/business/indian-in-technical-recession-with-gdp-slump-of-7-5-india-now-among-worst-performing-major-economies-2331404.

[72] This is, arguably, most poignantly captured in one of Tagore’s highly acclaimed poems — giving expression to his idea of a future India — defined by unfettered, undaunted and expansive critical openness to diverse views, at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45668/gitanjali-35.

He had also imagined the eternal India — in his poem ‘Bharat Tirtha’ (The Indian Pilgrimage) as a welcoming confluence of diverse cultures, rejecting none.

The concluding portion in English translation — urging all to continue with that tradition, is available here: ’Relevance of Tagore’s global vision’ by Abhik Roy, dated August 11 2015, at https://www.thestatesman.com/opinion/relevance-of-tagore-s-global-vision-81911.html.

Goes without saying, he — with his formidable poetic flair, has — pretty irrationally, romanticised the past — but, only to issue a lofty call in favour of an inclusive and egalitarian India — of future, in a manner way different from that of the BJP/RSS — in fact, diametrically opposite.

[73] “In recent years, it is being observed that a section of them [the migrants from north India] who are influenced by the political culture of their home states have emerged as a vote base for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal.
...

“... (T)he cultural environment for the rise and growth of BJP politics is being created by a section of the north Indian migrant communities.”

(Ref.: ’Hindi-speaking North Indian Migrants Are Fuelling BJP’s Growth in Bengal & Its Hopes for 2021 Assembly Polls’ by Badri Narayan, dated November 30 2020, at https://www.news18.com/news/politics/hindi-speaking-north-indian-migrants-are-fuelling-bjps-growth-in-bengal-its-hopes-for-2021-assembly-polls-3130775.html.)

[74] Ref.: http://www.nationalanthems.info/bd.htm.

[75] Ref.: ’Withdraw false land-grab charges: Amartya Sen writes to V-B VC’ by TNN, dated Jan 19 2021, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/withdraw-false-land-grab-charges-amartya-sen-writes-to-v-b-vc/articleshow/80338822.cms.
The latest example.

[76] Ref.: https://twitter.com/dramitmitra/status/1343088302996406272.
Also relevant: "At a time when West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has expressed concern over alleged fiscal irregularities, the state Finance Department has earned the appreciation of the office of the CAG for achieving 99.62 per cent expenditure reconciliation and 100 per cent receipt reconciliation of its transactions for the 2019-20 fiscal."

(Ref.: ’CAG lauds Bengal for 99% expenditure, 100% receipt reconciliation’ by PTI, dated Sep 29 2020, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/cag-lauds-bengal-for-99-expenditure-100-receipt-reconciliation/articleshow/78381642.cms?.)

[77] Ref.: (i) ’Trinamool Congress Has Institutionalised Corruption, Alleges Sitaram Yechury’ by Indo-Asian News Service, dated April 6 2016, at https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/trinamool-congress-has-institutionalised-corruption-alleges-sitaram-yechury-1339555 and (ii) ’Trinamool Congress suspends 18 workers after allegations of corruption in distribution of cyclone relief amount’ by Tanmay Chatterjee and Amit Chaturvedi, dated July 7 2020, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/trinamool-congress-pulls-up-200-workers-after-allegations-of-corruption-in-distribution-of-cyclone-relief-amount/story-gNOb4AlyE9353v3TVtelvO.html.

[78] Ref.: (i) ’Induction of leaders facing charges may backfire on BJP’ by Soumya Das, dated August 21 2019, at https://www.deccanherald.com/national/national-politics/induction-of-leaders-facing-charges-may-backfire-on-bjp-755936.html and ’Many Politicians with Allegations of Corruption Find BJP a Safe Haven’, dated November 4 2017, at https://www.newsclick.in/many-politicians-allegations-corruption-find-bjp-safe-haven.

[79] Ref.: (i) (a) ’Rafale Deal "Largest Defence Scam" In India’s History: Prashant Bhushan’ by Press Trust of India, dated October 13 2018, at https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/rafale-deal-largest-defence-scam-in-indias-history-prashant-bhushan-1931708, (b) ’Rafale Controversy: Supreme Court Judgement Amongst Worst Ever?’ by Sukla Sen, dated December 16 2018, at https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vT-NSOUZ3zob3gXrbNu_LGYx9KeWWf_YcnjlkArJmE76ub_194tUPSTNVkiucV8Eeb20T-07d8J1Q6b/pub, (ii) ’The Curious Case of PM CARES’ by Mir Jalal, dated November 1, 2020, at https://www.cenfa.org/indian-economy/the-curious-case-of-pm-cares/ and (iii) Tweet by Sitaram Yechury, dated December 1 2020, at https://twitter.com/sitaramyechury/status/1333732461642096640.

[80] Ref.: ’TMC won because of Mamata’s clean image: BJP’ by Press Trust of India, dated May 19 2016, at May 19, 2016.

[81] ““During the next assembly polls, apart from development, Bengali pride will be our main poll plank. Bengali pride is not just about Bengalis, it appeals to all sons of the soil. This philosophy will help counter BJP’s attempts to import leaders from outside to control the people of the state,” senior TMC leader and MP Sougata Roy told PTI.

“According to TMC sources, much like the regional parties of Tamil Nadu, which are proponents of Tamil pride, and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which harps on Marathi ‘Ashmita’ (pride), the TMC plans to emerge as the protector of Bengali culture and identity.

“The JD(U) in Bihar had talked about ‘Bihari versus Bahari’ Even the BJP, which boasts of nationalism, had campaigned on the poll plank of Gujarati ‘Ashmita’ during the 2007 Gujarat elections. So if we do the same, we think no one should complain about it,” another TMC leader said.”

(Ref.: ’’Bengali Pride’ to be TMC’s main poll plank to counter BJP’s aggressive Hindutva’ by PTI, dated November 30 2020. at https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bengali-pride-to-be-tmcs-main-poll-plank-to-counter-bjps-aggressive-hindutva/article33213772.ece.)

[82] “No chief ministerial face will be projected in (West Bengal Assembly elections). After securing the majority, the party leadership and the MLAs will decide who will become the chief minister: BJP General Secretary & West Bengal In-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya”.

(Ref.: Tweet, @ANI, dated January 20 2021, at https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1351851448682774529?.)

[83] The dissonance between the BJP and Bengal — its powerful foray into Bengal being pictured as an assault on its (presumed) cultural soul, is one of the stronger narratives now doing the rounds — even well beyond the customary TMC circles.

Just two fresh illustrations:

I. “BJP leaders’ disconnect with Bengal and Bengalis has been exposed time and again. The latest is a video clip of the Prime Minister reciting a poem by Tagore in barely recognisable Bangla”

(Ref.: ’Bengal is having a good laugh at BJP leaders’ faux pas’ by Shalini Sahay, dated January 18 2021, at https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/bengal-is-having-a-good-laugh-at-bjp-leaders-faux-pas?.

II. “To my opinion, this [i.e. the ongoing tussle between Mamata Banerjee and the BJP] is centuries’ old Bengal politics of Baro-Bhuiyan, the warrior landlords of this region, pulling themselves together to put up a fight against the Mughals coming from outside. Mamata is trying precisely that. Also a bit like what Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did against the outsiders, he united all in the name of Bengali identity.”

(Ref.: ’‘Bengal sees a fight between ‘Baro Bhuiyan’ [Twelve Landlords] and the Hindu right’’ by Suvojit Bagchi, dated January 22 2021, at https://en.prothomalo.com/opinion/interview/bengal-sees-a-fight-between-baro-bhuiyan-and-the-hindu-right?.)

The observation cited above — made in course of an interview, is by a fairly known Bengali scholar, Ranabir Samaddar, with a radical leftist past.

[84] “The AIMIM brand of aggressive, and abrasive, identity politics, however, would, on the one hand, further strengthen the BJP’s menacing majoritarian politics and, on the other, actively subvert the prospects of any united front(s) to combat it.
“In short, invitation to a disaster.”

(Ref.: ’Bihar State Poll 2020: Rising(?) AIMIM — A Boon or Curse for Indian Muslims?’ by Sukla Sen, ’Boon or Curse?’, dated December 19 2020, at http://mainstreamweekly.net/article10228.html.)

[85] “Owaisi visited West Bengal for the first time today, after he decided that his party will contest all the seats in Bengal.”

(Ref.: ’West Bengal Assembly Polls: AIMIM to fight under leadership of Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui’ by Jayatri Nag, dated January 3 2021, at https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/news/india/west-bengal-assembly-polls-aimim-to-fight-under-leadership-of-pirzada-abbas-siddiqui/articleshow/80083420.cms.)

The decision to fight all the seats, at its very first attempt, would have had sounded just hilarious but for its sinister implications.

[86] Ref.: ’Owaisi’s politics won’t work in Bengal: Muslim clerics react to AIMIM’s poll debut’ by Tanmay Chatterjee, dated January 8 2021, at https://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/owaisi-s-politics-won-t-work-in-bengal-muslim-clerics-react-to-aimim-s-poll-debut/story-muiFk2Vw0zw9ReheKEXbBL.html.

[87] “Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj, has created a political stir by claiming that All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader Asaduddin Owaisi had helped the BJP in the 2020 Bihar Assembly Elections. The Unnao MP added that the AIMIM’s decision to contest Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal elections will help the BJP register victory in both the states.

“"It is God’s grace. May God give him strength. He helped us in Bihar and will help us (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh panchayat and Assembly polls and also in West Bengal," Sakshi Maharaj told reporters.”

(Ref.: ’AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi helped BJP in Bihar; will continue to do so in UP and West Bengal: Sakshi Maharaj’ by Times Now Digital, dated January 14 2021, at https://www.timesnownews.com/india/article/aimim-s-asaduddin-owaisi-helped-bjp-in-bihar-will-continue-to-do-so-in-up-and-west-bengal-sakshi-maharaj/707124?.)

[88] Ref.: (i) ’15 crore Muslims can dominate 100 crore Hindus, rants MIM rabble-rouser Waris Pathan’, dated February 20 2020, at
https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/feb/20/15-crore-muslims-can-dominate-100-crore-hindus-rants-mim-rabble-rouser-waris-pathan-2106151.html and (ii) ’Akbaruddin in trouble for hate speech’ by TNN, dated Decmber 29 2012, at
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Akbaruddin-in-trouble-for-hate-speech/articleshow/17803821.cms.

[89] “In August 2013, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election earlier this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party experimented with a strategy to polarise voters in Muzaffarnagar, aiming to break a decade-long political alliance between the Jats and the Muslims. Contrary to the 1990s’ religious mobilisations, the aim here was not to build an elusive and fictitious “Hindu vote block” but to create a rift among the alliance that had enabled the inheritors of Charan Singh to dominate this area.”

(Ref.: ’How the Muzaffarnagar polarisation strategy paid off for the BJP (and why it’s being used again)’ by Gilles Verniers, dated Aug 22 2014, at https://scroll.in/article/675473/how-the-muzaffarnagar-polarisation-strategy-paid-off-for-the-bjp-and-why-its-being-used-again.)

Also ref.: ’BJP gains in polls after every riot, says Yale study’ by DP Bhattacharya, dated December 05 2014, at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/bjp-gains-in-polls-after-every-riot-says-yale-study/articleshow/45378840.cms.

[90] Ref.: ’TMC to return to power in West Bengal: C-Voter opinion poll’ by Shreya, dated January18 2021, at https://www.oneindia.com/india/tmc-to-return-to-power-in-west-bengal-c-voter-opinion-poll-3204143.html.

[91] Ref.: ’ABP CVoter Opinion Poll: Mamata to Return With 158 Seats, BJP 102’ by Aditya Menon, dtd January 18 2020, at https://www.thequint.com/amp/story/news/politics/abp-cvoter-opinion-poll-west-bengal-assembly-elections-mamata-banerjee-bjp-tmc?.

[92] Ref.: (i) ’Why There Is A Problem With Opinion Polls In India’ by Aakar Patel, dated December 9 2018, at https://www.outlookindia.com/blog/story/why-there-is-a-problem-with-opinion-polls-in-india/4010 and (ii) ’Why Exit Polls in India often go wrong?’ by: Vikas Khanna, dated Oct 25 2019, at https://www.wionews.com/opinions/why-exit-polls-in-india-often-go-wrong-258115.

[93] “The assembly elections in Bengal is likely to be brought forward by a couple of weeks to complete the entire process by April...
...

“In 2016, Bengal had witnessed a six-phase assembly election beginning April 4 and continuing till May 5 ... In 2011, too, the state elections were held over six phases between April 18 and May 10.”

(Ref.: ’West Bengal polls may be brought forward to avoid exam clash’ by Saibal Gupta, dated January 14 2021, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/state-polls-may-be-brought-forward-to-avoid-exam-clash/articleshow/80259984.cms.)

[94] ““We will contest in 12 seats in the state. We shall also lend support to some select candidates fielded by other Left parties or mass organisations,” said CPI-ML (Liberation) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharyya.

Across the state, we will urge voters to defeat the BJP,” he added, indicating that the party didn’t have any inhibitions in supporting Trinamul to keep the BJP at bay [emphasis added].

“He also said his party would extend issue-based support to Trinamul.”

(Ref.: ’Left outfit’s support to defeat BJP’ by Arkamoy Datta Majumdar, dated January 29 2021, at https://www.telegraphindia.com/west-bengal/left-outfits-support-to-defeat-bjp/cid/1805055.)

[95] Brings to mind that back in 2002, in the second and final round of the French presidential poll, large sections of the French Left had voted for the hard Right Jacques Chirac, handing him a handsome victory with the sole and limited objective of defeating his challenger (fascist?) Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Even at that time, the Left — the far Left in particular, had stood divided.

(Ref.: (i) ’Should the French left have voted Chirac?’ by AWL, dated May 14 2002, at https://www.workersliberty.org/node/96, (ii) ’Left voters who put ’the crook’ before ’the fascist’’, dated May 6 2002, at https://www.irishtimes.com/news/left-voters-who-put-the-crook-before-the-fascist-1.1056217 and (iii) ’Chirac crushes Le Pen in France’ by Ellen Hale, dated May 5 2002, at http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2002/05/05/chirac.htm.)

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