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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 21, New Delhi, May 8, 2021

Bengal Verdict Has Sparred National Degeneration | Vijay Kumar

Saturday 8 May 2021

by Vijay Kumar

At a time when the entire country is lurching from crisis to catastrophe, marking sharp descent of India into failed State, like sub- Sahara African countries, an immense sense of relief came from the result of the 2021 West Bengal Assembly Election, which has saved the soul of Indian democracy.

I was watching the Bengal campaign with a frightening sense of disquiet and discomfiture. The BJP under hideously polarizing leadership of the Prime Minister, and mafia-style politics of his consigliere, who is, unfortunately, the Home Minister of the country, waged a war against Mamata Banerjee. They fought this election like war and converted into full-blooded armageddon. On one side was Mamata Banerjee pitted against the entire might of BJP, RSS, brazen-facedly partial and partisan Election Commission, and billions and billions of Dollars bankrolled by the Gujarati cronies, Ambani and Adani. When the peoples all around us are dying because of lack of access to beds in hospitals and oxygen, BJP pumped its entire energy and resources in winning Bengal election. When there is an unending tableau of death, despair, and destruction all around us, BJP hired two biggest 5-Star hotels at Kolkata and its entire IT Cell, managed by Amit Malviya, shifted its entire operation lock, stock, and barrel in Kolkata and started focusing only on Bengal from last six months. Right from the Prime Minister to all the senior functionaries of the ruling party were campaigning in Bengal even in the midst of unprecedented catastrophe recorded in last 100 years, when the peoples are dying all-around at every four minutes and crematoriums have been converted into an unceasing inferno. It was clearly a fight between David and Goliath, and the people of Bengal rose to the occasion and voted in favour of David.

Mamata Banerjee’s personal loss in the Nandigram seat is of no consequence. She took a calculated and bold gamble by choosing to contest only from Nandigram. This bold decision had the effect of energizing the rank and file of TMC workers. In the process, she lost the battle of Nandigram in order to win the big war of Bengal.

It is true that Mamata and her party TMC promoted the cult of violence and even corruption flourished in her reign in the last ten years. But the downside of Mamata becomes fleabite compared to mafia-style politics anchored on politics of hate, divisiveness, sloganeering and showmanship, the cult of personality, muscular jingoism, toxic religiosity, and illicit money.

The challenge ahead is formidable. Winning an election and providing good governance are two entirely different aspects. Like Modi, the cult of personality too is associated with Mamata Banerjee. Again like Modi, Mamata invests her energy and resources in winning the election rather than providing good governance. What makes the difference is Mamata has succeeded in maintaining her contact with the peoples on the ground and, unlike Modi, she is not guilty of toppling the governments. Having received the huge mandate at a time when Bengal, like other parts of India, has been ravaged with Corona Virus. How she handles the menacing spread of Corona in Bengal will be the test for her governing skill.

The Bengal and Tamil Nadu results have once again brought to the fore that regional satraps are capable of holding their Forts and offering the counter-hegemonic resistance to the hegemony of BJP. Since Congress has emerged as the biggest looser, as evident from bucking of more than 40 years old tradition by the Left Front of flipping the political space by alternating between Left Front and Congress in every five years in Kerala, it is incumbent upon the regional stalwarts to come together and form a Federal Front and resist the majoritarian politics of BJP. Of course, Congress too should be part of that Federal Front.

The most redeeming part of the Bengal verdict is that Bengali voters have lived up to the image of Bengali exceptionalism in which the hatred towards other communities, which has become the signature tunes of BJP in Hindi heartland and western India, was once again rejected in Bengal through resoundingly and unequivocally clear mandate. The politics of hate and polarization is the logic and functional rationality of BJP and Bengali voters rejected it with a landslide mandate. In the process, the Bengal, and, by implication India, has been spared from national degeneration of Himalayan magnitude.

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