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Why BJP lost in Bengal and what now?

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BJP is often blamed for polarising electorate in its election campaign, but Mamatadidi did it more directly and convincingly so much so that Muslims closed rank and voted en masse for TMC. They not only voted against BJP but also against Left Alliance because most of them have no ideological leanings. They are practically oriented and decided to trust TMC and the CM who have a track record of supporting them rightly or wrongly but unflinchingly in the last two terms. Hindus, on the other hand are a divided lot and more emotional than practical. They are, in West Bengal, much enamoured of left liberalism and deny non-left ideologies and thoughts any space in their mind, howsoever rational that may be. They would even ignore blatant communal acts and campaigns by the leaders of TMC and Left Alliance.

It is also true that many people are drawn by the charisma of Mamatadidi and they believed in her campaign statements. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the West Bengal government has launched increasing number of social welfare schemes and yet has paid salaries and pension to its employees regularly and that the state has spent Rs 4500 crore for coronavirus treatment facilities from its own coffers despite the tight financial situation. It is said that the number of visitors at the Duare Sarkar (government at door step), the State government’s outreach programme, has crossed two crores. The programme includes beneficiaries to 11 welfare schemes of the State government.

People on the other hand did not trust most of the new entrants to BJP from TMC. Because, the mass desertions from CPI(M) to TMC from 2007 onwards, following the Singur-Nandigram movement, had ensured that the same kind of Marxist instrumental violence prevailed under TMC rule. Many potential BJP supporters thought these entrants from TMC would behave similarly once they are returned to power and continue the old TMC traditions.

The other important factor is the fear psychosis in the people’s mind. The threatening statements made during TMC’s election campaign are on record and it instilled the fear in people’s mind that either vote for TMC or else get beaten up post-poll. This fear would have largely influenced the Matua and other SCs, partly turning away from BJP.

Now that post-poll violence has started on a large scale, it confirms how the fear psychosis played on their mind. I hope that we are not seeing the repeat of the carnage of the Congress hooligans on the Leftists after the 1972 assembly election; only this time, BJP supporter is the target. It is well-known that the 1972 state assembly elections, held while the state was under president’s rule, were massively rigged and this reinstated the Congress in power. What subsequently followed was one of the most virulent reigns of terror for clearing away of Naxal and Left activists. The pipe guns and bombs are from then on wielded by gangster and criminal elements allied to the government, and used to silence all voices of opposition. A regime of everyday terror, described by the CPI(M) as a period of ‘semi-fascist terror’ came into being. The field now seems to lie open for a free for all play of violence of the kind we are witnessing today unless the new government acts decisively and fairly. 

By Sudip Bhattacharyya: The writer is a longstanding commentator on contemporary issues.

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