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

The West Bengal Mandate | Sumit Chakravartty

Saturday 8 May 2021, by Sumit Chakravartty

May 8, 2021

The Trinamool Congress’ (TMC’s) victory in the 2021 State Assembly elections in West Bengal has been momentous and historic in every sense of the terms. This becomes all the more evident from the manner in which the country’s ruling party at the Centre, the BJP, strained every nerve to win the elections as money was spent like water, not only to break the Trinamool but also to leave an imprint of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ on the length and breadth of the State.

According to the latest figures, the Trinamool Congress secured 213 seats and the BJP won 77 seats, the Indian Secular Front of Abbas Siddiqui’s communal outfit won one seat and the Gorkha Mukti Morcha won one seat. Elections to four seats — two in Khardaha in 24 Parganas District and two in Cooch Behar District will be held again due to deaths of contending candidates on account of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Commenting on the election results, the CPI-ML (Liberation’s) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya pointed out: “this is a mandate by the people of West Bengal against the BJP’s aggressive and unscrupulous bid to conquer the State. The BJP’s conspiracy to seize power in West Bengal by massacre and intimidation of voters and engineering defection has been brought to a grinding halt.”

Bhattacharya further pointed out that “responding to ’Ekusher Daak’ (the call of 2021) and the (‘No Vote to BJP’ campaigns) Bengal’s students and youth and activists of wide-ranging people’s movements, conveyed the urgency of defeating the fascist design of the BJP to every nook and corner of West Bengal. Representatives of the all-India farmers’ movements too had appealed to the people of the State to use their votes to defeat the BJP and strengthen the movement for the repeal of the disastrous farm laws of the Modi Government. These concerted efforts that helped to achieve this loud and clear verdict will play the role of vigilant sentinel for democracy for days to come.”

In another article, the CPI-ML leader underscored that the West Bengal election was an extraordinary one where the battle was between the BJP “trying to conquer Bengal and an angry and alarmed Bengal trying to stop the BJP by all means”. He averred that “the BJP did not anticipate the depth of the opposition and the steely resolve of the people”.

“The Trinamool Congress did show the political sharpness and agility to draw its lessons and take corrective measures, but the BJP with its power, resources, and well-oiled election machine intended to virtually romp home to victory by engineering large scale defections and lulling floating voters into submission. This is where the progressive and inclusive legacy of West Bengal stepped in and erected a wall of resistance that the BJP could not breach. Despite suffering defections, the TMC vote share went up five percent since 2019.”

If one takes the entire election into consideration both the CPI-M and the Congress must be taken to task for minimising the threat of the BJP. The CPI-M felt it was enough to blame the TMC for ‘inviting’ the BJP to West Bengal forgetting the strong ideological and organisational roots of Hindutva in West Bengal and ignoring the challenge that the BJP poses today.

In the aftermath of the elections, the West Bengal Assembly will have only the BJP straddling the entire opposition space. Both the Left and Congress will be absent in the Assembly. This itself is an unfortunate development, but for which the two parties have themselves to blame. There should have been all-out efforts by both the parties to forge an understanding with the TMC so that a united opposition could fight the BJP and help the consolidation of the anti-BJP and anti-communal forces. One only hopes that good sense will prevail among all the contending parties in the coming days. It must be pointed out that important members of the CPI-M, who had contested the elections and came a cropper — Tanmay Bhattacharya and Kanti Ganguly — have now spoken out in public against the false approach of the party leadership towards these elections in the State. Hopefully, their criticism will be taken into account in the days ahead.

Long years ago in the 1940s a well-known Bengali poet, Sukanta Bhattacharya, had written the following lines. (translated from the original Bengali by Kshitis Roy)

An undertaking

Leave worrying comrade
Sharpen your heart to a point of steel
Let the wicked aggressor come to realise
That the land of Bengal is a fortress-invincible.

Today, Bengal has through the results of these elections once again brought out the abiding significance of these lines.

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