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

West Bengal Stops BJP Juggernaut | Barun Das Gupta

Saturday 8 May 2021, by Barun Das Gupta

The Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee has won hands down in the West Bengal assembly elections and come back to power for the third time in a row. But in the process, the ultra-Right BJP has emerged as the sole opposition. The CPI-M and the Congress drew blank. So, there will be no Left and democratic opposition in the new Assembly. And for the first time since 1946, there will be no Communist member in the House.

The CPI-M is solely responsible for this. In its anger against Mamata for ending its 34-year long rule in 2011, the CPI-M took the defeat of Mamata and TMC rather than the defeat of the BJP to be their prime, indeed, their only task. It is this blind animosity against Mamata that made them tie up with a communal party like the Indian Secular Front led by a rabidly communal cleric like Abbas Siddiqui. The Bengal CPI-M failed to realize that the electorate in West Bengal this time was sharply polarized between the TMC and the BJP. The Muslims realized the danger they would face if the BJP came to power. They knew only Mamata and TMC can protect them. Siddiqui’s party, even with its alliance with the CPI-M and the BJP, can never come to power and never protect them. So they decided to vote en bloc for Mamata. So did the women and a huge chunk of Hindu voters who refused to be swayed by the BJP’s communal propaganda

It goes to the credit of the people of West Bengal that despite the highly communal overtones of the speeches of Modi and Shah, the BJP failed to organize a communal riot. On her part, Mamata also never ceased to caution the people about the need to maintain communal harmony and foil the designs of those who wanted communal riots in the State.

BJP stooped very low in its personal attack against Mamata. For the better part of the campaigning, Mamata had to move in a wheel chair as the heel of her left foot suffered a crack in an “accident” which many thought was not an accident but a deliberate attempt at harming her physically. The State BJP president made a vulgar comment that instead of showing her right foot to the people she should give up her sari and wear a Bermuda “to show both her legs.” This shows the culture of the BJP.

This time the West Bengal electorate was sharply polarized between the TMC and the BJP. The speeches of BJP leaders in election meetings made it obvious that they knew nothing and didn’t care to know anything about Bengal’s history, culture, tradition and ethos. Prime Minister Modi made such hilarious mistakes as calling Shantiniketan the birth place of Poet Tagore. Modi’s attempts at speaking Bengali in distorted, un-Bengali accent evoked derisive laughter from the people. The people knew that a BJP victory would mean an assault on all their cherished values.

The Bengalis realized that their survival depends on keeping the BJP out of power. The TMC apart, there were innumerable campaigners against the BJP rather than for the TMC. A group of litterateurs, intellectuals, academicians, artists, etc., carried on a vigorous and relentless State-wide campaign with the battle cry: “Don’t vote for BJP.” The cumulative effect of this and other such anti-BJP campaigns did play a role in determining the final outcome of the polls.

The BJP, licking its wounds for the moment, will not sit still. They will employ all their bagful of dirty tricks to disturb the TMC Government and bide for their opportunity to destabilize it. The fact that they are in power at the Centre gives them an advantage to throw spanners in the wheel of the new government. On the one hand, they will withhold funds due to the State and on the other they will accuse the State Government of “doing nothing” for the people.

There is churning in the BJP, churning in the CPI-M and churning in the Congress. After the dismal failure of the Congress in his home district of Murshiabad where the TMC won 12 seats, the BJP 2 seats and the Congress was wiped out, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury may not continue as the Bengal PCC president for long. His return as the Leader of the Congress Party in Lok Sabha is also doubtful. He was removed from that post by Sonia Gandhi sometime back so that he could devote his entire time to campaigning in Bengal.

In the CPI-M many silent voices have now become articulate. Tnmay Bhattacharya, a leading member of the party, said at a recent TV panel discussion that the party leadership would have to own the responsibility for the electoral disaster in West Bengal. The ground level workers could not be held responsible for decisions “imposed from above”

There is churning in the BJP also. Some middle-level leaders and party workers are now questioning the wisdom of putting up as party candidates those TMC MLAs who defected just on the eve of the polls and joined the BJP. All of them, including former ministers like Rajiv Bandyopadhyay have been roundly defeated in the polls. By setting them up, superseding the old and loyal party workers, the BJP alienated many of its workers and supporters who either did not work for the party or worked against the party or contested as Independents, slicing away chunks of the party’s vote base.

Already, rumours are afloat that after the dismal performance of the BJP, about five MPs and 30 to 35 MLAs are about to quit the party. Amit Shah’s bluff and bluster of winning 200 seats in Bengal, as a part of the psychological war to demoralize the TMC workers, is now recoiling on him. Shah knew that the BJP had neither the organizational strength nor the popularity to win 200 seats.

The TMC has roundly defeated the BJP which is the political wing of the RSS/ Now there has to be a consistent and ceaseless ideological war against the communal-fascist ideology of the RSS, It has to be fought with as much tenacity and devotion with which RSS workers have been spreading their ideology for the last 96 years. The struggle will be long drawn and the warriors must be absolutely dedicated to their cause.

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