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Now, a sitting MLA loses life: Does the Centre owe any duty to common men of West Bengal?

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Following the endless stream of political violence, the death (suspected murder) of Debendranath Ray, a sitting BJP member of Bengal legislature is finally threatening to burst the dam of patience of people of the state.

Only a fair investigation will unearth the truth about the cause of the MLA’s death. However, the opposition parties and also large chunk of the population have doubts that the state investigation agencies would be able to do that for more than one reason.

According to many political observers the tragic incident sends thunder signal as they foresee violence set to accelerate in days to come if it is viewed in the overall context of the political strategy of Trinamool Congress -the ruling party in the state.  

To discerning political observers, it is clear that the party at the helm in West Bengal has been facing toughest challenges since it came to power in 2011 under the combined onslaught of Covid-19 and Amphan. The capacity to face the dual challenge has become emaciated due to corruption in several layers of the party. Challenges are so daunting that the party seems to have gone into a resignation mode. On more than one occasion the desperation showed up in the soundbites given by the party supremo.

Quite contrary to what many think it is plausible that the party may welcome president rule in the state hoping that will give an immediate relief from facing the present challenges, simultaneously lending it a martyr image which it can encash in 2021 poll. If that is indeed the strategy, it is likely that it will itch for a showdown with the centre. In consequence political violence may accelerate going forward, rather than ebbing.

Now if one looks at BJP’s West Bengal strategy, it seems to be following a policy of endless patience, hoping that the voters will be so disgusted with the TMC by 2021 election time that they would direly seek a change of regime and it will be the natural beneficiary. Thus, it had for a long-time, addressed issues of political violence through ‘Kadi Ninda’. Now it seems to be resorting to ‘We condemn’ kind of statements. The words are only getting harsher!

If that is indeed the BJP’s strategy there is serious moral objection to it. Being the party ruling at the centre, it owes duty to the people of the state to protect them if the law and order collapses. There can be no virtue in not imposing Art 356 under any circumstances. It is not without any rhyme or reason that the framers of the Constitution had incorporated it.

It will be a moral as well as ethical guilt on the part of the Centre not to come forward and protect the common people of West Bengal at the time of grave crisis as seems to be the case presently. They cannot simply sit idle calculating their own political gains and losses.

The BJP must also factor in the possibility that the scale of violence is more likely to go up as the state approaches 2021 poll. Eventually it may not be able to avoid intervention. But if that happens at the last hour, the loss in human lives will be greater. Even electorally, Trinamool can leverage the martyrdom sentiment more effectively. Nor would the governor get enough time to set things in order to be able to create a favorable image in favour of the ruling party at the centre.

Interestingly, the BJP at the state level does not seem to be adequately aware of the challenges it will face if it is voted to power. West Bengal is the third most populated state with multi-faceted problems including infiltration from Bangladesh, presence of terror modules, making of country bombs and fire arms across vast rural belts, syndicate raj, cut money and corruption, lack of industries and employment, declining standard of education, dwindling health infrastructure, to mention some.

BJP must realize that it has so far benefitted electorally due to anti-incumbency factor. It has not been able to present before the people of the state any convincing road map of what it would be able to accomplish if voted to power. Though Modi government at the centre has a wide range of achievements to its credit, the people of the state will like to be assured of what his party will be able to do as ruling dispensation at the state level.

If the centre takes over the reins without procrastination, it can use both Covid-19 and Amphan rehabilitation as opportunities to give people a demonstration of good governance. That will convince people of the state about the qualitative difference between the governance by the two regimes. A drastic improvement in law and order situation can be another key factor in building a favorable public perception in a remarkably short time. There is abundant opportunity to do a host of good work by making right use of the bureaucracy, which seems to have been kept under shackles. It goes without saying that the BJP as a party will be the beneficiary of any positive public perception that may arise under president’s rule.

This is however not to say that imposition of president rule will not face opposition. It is bound to arise. The present ruling party will cry hoarse with the hope that the fiercer is its protest, the greater will be electoral benefits. Even opposition parties like Congress and the left may oppose president rule by launching tirade against both TMC and BJP. However, if management of Covid 19 and AMPHAN rehabilitation begin to improve rapidly, these protests may ebb quickly, fearing that common men may not approve such action.

Finally, it remains to be seen how BJP looks at the issues relating to its moral duty and electoral prospects. History has thrown at the party the challenge of making a right decision at a very important juncture of time. It needs to accept it with courage, and confidence.   

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