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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 22 New Delhi May 18, 2019

Unforeseen Event at Last Phase of Polls

Sunday 19 May 2019, by SC


As we enter the last phase of the seven-phase polls to elect the 17th Lok Sabha this year, an uncertain future stares us in the face. What happened in the streets of Kolkata in the wake of the roadshow of BJP President Amit Shah on May 14 has forced every conscientious Bengali to hang her/his head in shame. There were pitched battles in College Street when non-Bengali outsiders who accompanied Amit Shah to infiltrate into the city clashed with students owing allegiance to the Trinamul Congress before the Calcutta University. That in itself was an unprecedented development. But what took place thereafter was something not just unexpected, but truly unforeseen.

Amit Shah’s roadshow went ahead along Bidhan Sarani towards Shyambazar. Once it reached Vidyasagar College some students backing the TMC raised slogans against the BJP President and displayed black flags to him. But in retaliation, the non-Bengali outsiders accompanying Shah scaled the walls to enter the college and create pandemonium. Not only that. Chairs were attacked as also statuettes and busts of eminent personalities on display. These outsiders were identified by the saffron vests and shirts they were wearing. Among the busts was one of the outstanding educationist, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. His bust was destroyed by the afore-mentioned BJP goons—the photos captured by several persons, including the TMC students, have brought this out in bold relief. According to reports published in newspapers, a Delhi BJP leader, Tejinder Bagga, was arrested in Kolkata on the same charge. [And yet it was the PM who made a preposterous allegation—that it was Mamata’s men who orchestrated attacks on Amit Shah’s roadshow and destroyed Vidyasagar’s bust. That is laughable for the simple reason that even a child in Bengal knows who Vidyasagar is as it was he who brought out the Varnaparichay and every Bengali child has studied it to know the Bengali alphabets.]

In the circumstances the BJP stands to lose in most of the seats, including seven in Kolkata, going to the polls next Sunday.

The question now is: how will the BJP tackle this problem? One should not, of course, be oblivious of the capacity of the BJP leaders, especially the Modi-Shah duo, to turn day into night in such cases.

Now the Election Commission has, under the directive of the BJP leaders, cut short the Bengal campaign by a day. The obvious intention is to give advantage to Narendra Modi so that he gets ample time to score over his political opponents. This is the kind of ‘level playing-field’ one is witnessing in West Bengal. What a shame!

Meanwhile, one point needs to be highlighted here. That relates to the intolerance of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee: a young Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activist, Priyanka Sharma, was arrested in West Bengal for the ‘crime’ of sharing a bizarre meme online, showing the West Bengal CM’s face superimposed on the face of actress Priyanka Chopra. She was released only after the Supreme Court, on being moved, granted her bail. As a consequence of this incident Mamata has lost a lot of goodwill while several publications have criticised the Apex Court’s insistence on an apology from the BJYM activist. The Indian Express has aptly observed:

The meme shared by Sharma was merely bizarre, even if it involved a political personality. If producers of real political satire could be prosecuted until they apologised, it would be the death of free speech.

May 16 S.C. 

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