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

Bengal Resists the Onslaught of Hindutva Politics | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 8 May 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen

In the recently held assembly elections in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) had a landslide victory over its nearest rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and won 213 seats out of 294. On the other hand, it is the first time since independence that the Left and the Congress failed to win a single seat in the state assembly. This opens a new chapter in Bengal politics.

Almost all the important central leaders of the BJP campaigned in West Bengal to oust the TMC government in power. In fact, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah visited the State a number of times to address public rallies in different parts of West Bengal. They tried to create communal polarization among the electorate by their aggressive utterances and gestures. Another prominent aspect of their campaigns was personal attacks against the present Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee. However, the people of West Bengal voted in large numbers for the TMC to save the State from the electoral onslaught of anti-minority aggressive politics of Hindutva.

It should be mentioned in this connection that the main electoral agenda of the dominant Left in West Bengal, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) - CPI (M), was to oust the TMC government in power. The top leaders did not take lesson from the debacle of the Left in the last parliamentary elections held in 2019, when a large number of their erstwhile supporters voted for the BJP and facilitated the electoral rise of the Hindu Right in West Bengal. In the present assembly elections, the important leaders of the Left characterized the BJP and the TMC as two sides of the same coin in their election rallies. The voters of West Bengal completely rejected the Left-Congress alliance as a force in the assembly elections of 2021.

The politics of pluralist Bengali nationalism preached by the TMC, led by Mamata Banerjee, played a big role in mobilizing people across class, community and religious identities. Moreover, the welfare measures taken by the TMC government for the subaltern classes and its schemes for empowerment of women, such as Kanyashree, strengthened the image of Mamata Banerjee in the public mind as a pro-people charismatic leader, and contributed to the electoral victory of the TMC.

It is difficult to predict the trajectory of political battles in West Bengal on the electoral front and outside. A significant development on the eve of present assembly elections in the State is the birth of a non-party political formation, which campaigned in Kolkata and in the districts with the slogan “No Vote to the BJP”. It seems that popular movements in West Bengal against the Hindu Right will take new political, social and cultural forms in the coming days.

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