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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 14, New Delhi, March 20, 2021

Conquering West Bengal: BJP’s Dream Turns Into a Nightmare | Barun Das Gupta

Friday 19 March 2021, by Barun Das Gupta

BJP’s fond dream of “conquering” West Bengal by winning 200 seats (out of a total of 294) as confidently claimed by Amit Shah, is turning into a nightmare. In the Mahabharata we have read the Mushal Parva and the destruction of the Yadu Vansha. The BJP in West Bengal is facing a similar situation. Lacking the human material to run a government and without a chief ministerial face to present to the public, the BJP thought that the best way out is to organize large-scale defections from the ruling Trinamool Congress by offering them ‘ticket’ and dangling the hope of becoming chief minister if the party won.

This is now boomeranging on the party. A large number of BJP workers across the State have refused to work for the party candidates who have recently defected from the TMC. Their argument is simple: “We have been dubbing these people till the other day as tolabaz (extortionist), as cut-money takers (meaning taking money from the beneficiaries of various social welfare schemes of the State Government) and operators of “syndicate” (meaning those making money by supplying sand and cement for various construction projects). How can we campaign for these people? Why have the old and tested workers of the party who have stood by the party during its bad days not been given ticket?”

The leadership has no answer. So the people are seeing the spectacle of angry BJP workers besieging party office after party office, including the central election office of the party at Hastings in Kolkata, raising slogans, trying to break down the police barricades (‘Mamata’s police” in the words of the BJP) and force their entry into the party office and policemen trying their level best to keep the angry workers at bay. The West Bengal BJP is split vertically between the old timers and the new comers (from TMC).

Posters are flooding the streets and mohallas against the TMC turncoats becoming BJP workers and given ticket. The party has till now failed to publish the full list of its candidates. The list is being published in instalments like a novel being serialized in a magazine. With the publication of each instalment there is a fresh wave of anger and indignation. Nightlong meetings are being held in Kolkata and in New Delhi to finalize the candidates’ list but the stalemate continues. No decision can be taken. Now the central BJP leadership has decided to field some sitting members of the Lok Sabha for the State Assembly elections. One former Rajya Sabha MP, Swapan Dasgupta, has already been fielded in the Tarakeswar constituency.

In the famous Nandigram constituency of East Medinipur, Mamata’s one time lieutenant and former minister Subhendu Adhikari is contesting as BJP candidate against his former boss and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Subhendu had publicly declared that he would defeat Mamata by a margin of fifty thousand votes. But as things stand, the reverse is more likely to happen. As I write these lines, news comes that in the Bheturia village under the Nandigram constituency, a group of angry women with broomsticks in their hands chased Subehdnu who came there to campaign. The CRPF jawans escorted their protectee to the car and ordered the driver of the car to speed away with his VIP passenger as fast as possible.

A few days ago, BJP MP Locket Chatterjee went to Kanthi, the home of the Adhikaris, She wanted to know from Subhendu’s father Sisir why Mamata had decided to contest from Nandigram. “To finish Subhendu, what else?”, the father replied. “Just as you (BJP) want to finish Abhisek (Mamata’s nephew), Mamata wants to finish Subhendu.” The father’s statement speaks volumes about the son’s electoral prospects.

Asked to comment on the widespread anger of the rank-and-file party workers on the nomination of party candidates, party spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharyya explained that the BJP had suddenly started growing and many people were being attracted by the leadership of Narendra Modi. “This has created some problems like the teething trouble of infants growing”, he said. The BJP was founded in 1980. In 2021 it is 41-year old. People are asking if the party is having teething trouble at this age, when will it grow into adulthood?

The basic problem of BJP is that its culture, its ethos, its behaviour and the language it uses does not resonate with the culture of the Bengalis. Its workers broke the statue of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar at the Vidyasagar College in Kolkata. Vidyasagar is respected as an educationist, as a social reformer and a rationalist to the core, as one of pioneers of the renaissance in the 19th century Bengal. Generations of Bengalis had their first lesson in the Bengali alphabet from Vidyasagar’s Varna Parichaya. To desecrate the statue of Vidyasagar is to inflict a deep wound on the sentiments and sensibilities of the Bengalis. This the BJP leadership does not understand.

Anger and indignation is growing against the present vice-chancellor of the Viswa Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore. The VC is an RSS man and the philosophy of the RSS is antithetical to Tagore’s humanism and the ideal of universal brotherhood that transcends religion and country. So the VC is constantly at loggerheads with the students and the teachers. The offensive language he uses against his own colleagues, his threats to the students and the controversial decisions he has taken have made him unpopular. He is a misfit in Viswa Bharati as he is unable to imbibe its spirit.

The cumulative effect of all these has been a growing apathy of the average educated Bengali to the BJP and its mother, the RSS. This apathy will be reflected in the outcome of the coming Assembly elections. The BJP does not want to understand the Bengalis and the Bengali culture. It wants to impose its own Hindutva culture on the Bengalis. This the Bengalis will always resist and never accept. The “growth” of the party that Shamik Bhattcharyya talks about, is the growth in numbers, not in quality. The breath-taking “growth” period of the CPI-M during its heyday in power led to the lumpenization of the party. It will be no different in BJP’s case.

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