The Hindu Bengali had waited 5 long years for the 2021 West Bengal elections. For many, this was a do-or-die opportunity. With the Muslim population growing and more pouring in from across the border every year, the conscious Hindu in West Bengal is aware of the danger that lurks and the existential crisis they are about to face in another 10 years. The BJP’s loss in the 2021 West Bengal elections is a massive blow for them. The BJP winning over 70 seats and claiming to make a strong opposition holds no water, because in this border-state it was a win or lose situation with no in-betweens. With a fascist Chief Minister like Mamata Banerjee, the 77 opposition MLAs are as good as 0.
The TMC has secured over 200 seats and they will now unleash the full might of the state against the opposition. While the BJP is trying to find a consolation prize in Suvendu Adhikary’s victory, the immediate attack on his vehicle right after the results proves that Mamata’s goons are ready to deal even with a heavy-weight politician like Adhikary also. With the violence that has already been unleashed on the BJP MLAs and workers, it seems like only a matter of time before these 70 plus MLAs are further reduced.
BJP missed reading the pulse of Bengal
Bengal has birthed several icons of Hindu Dharma, but the modern state of West Bengal has forgotten its collective religious identity as far as the Hindus are concerned. Despite being targeted for their religion by Muslims multiple times, the Hindu Bengali has not woken up to his/her religious identity. Hence, a call for Hindutva won’t work for the secular Hindu Bengalis that supersede the religion-conscious Hindu Bengalis in the state.
With youngsters moving away, the state is largely home to senior citizens who are dependent on the interest on savings to keep the house running. Lowering the interest rates added to possibilities of nationwide privatization of the banking sector has pushed the middle class away from the BJP. A large segment of daily-wage workers, auto drivers, taxi drivers were drawn towards the saffron brigade, but the sudden rise in the price of fuel threw them off.
Yes, the price-rise and other economic factors are paramount for the Bengali voter who had abandoned communism just a decade ago. They are still communist in the mind and they are wired to think in that direction. Day to day economic issues play a big part in their electoral decision making.
Inducting a large number of TMC members, some of whom were sworn enemies of long-time BJP workers, also didn’t work in favour of the saffron party either, Suvendu Adhikari being one exception. This is a ground reality that cannot be overlooked.
Bengali Hindus were not convinced
BJP and its leadership seem to be turning apologetic for their Hindutva image. And to get rid of that, the party is desperately trying to get a secular make-over. “Sabka Saath Sabka Vishwas” is their dire attempt of appealing to the minorities. The national party must realize that the minorities in Bengal, or pretty much anywhere in the country, will not vote for them. The so-called minorities have multiple options when it comes to political parties pandering to them, and the BJP doesn’t make the list.
In the process of wooing the Muslim voter, the BJP had sent the Hindutva-conscious Bengali into doubt. During its rallies, BJP leadership stayed silent on implementing NRC in Bengal. Was that to reassure the Muslims? Because the Hindutva-supporting Bengali was completely put off by such tactics and had started second-guessing the BJP’s motives.
Again, BJP attempted caste-based politics by redefining SC/ST/OBC. The Hindu mainstream that focuses on Hindutva doesn’t welcome these decisions in its already polarised community, any more. BJP must wear its Hindutva with pride and unapologetically quit attempting to woo the Muslim vote bank.
Save Hindus before saving Hindutva
People of West Bengal have seen how BJP karyakartas were slaughtered and hung from the trees, they have seen their houses burning and women sexually assaulted. And they have seen that the BJP did nothing to protect these karyakartas, avenge their deaths or provide their families with some respite. These karyakartas were given multiple warnings and threats before being targeted. Yet they chose to stand by the BJP. They all were Hindu Bengalis who gave their blood for the BJP and the BJP, it appears, didn’t repay their loyalty.
BJP leadership used these deaths in their speeches, and their supporters talked about them on social media to gain sympathy. But what about the Hindu family that lost its own? Were they given any financial support, any legal support? Were the burned down houses rebuilt by the BJP, one of the richest political parties worldwide?
Most of all, why didn’t the centre pull up Mamata Banerjee and her police for failing to do its duty? Article 355 tasks the Centre with protecting every state against ‘external aggression and internal disturbances’, in addition to ensuring that governance is carried out as per the provisions of the Constitution. When UPA during its rule used this Article to pull up states like Odisha, Karnataka and Kerala for specific law & order disturbances in those states, why hasn’t the NDA used it yet despite wide-ranging acts of violence against its workers? Many have argued that West Bengal was a fit case even for President’s Rule under Article 356, especially after the farcical 2018 Panchayat elections where TMC won around one-third of the seats ‘uncontested’.
Inviting bereaving families of its slain workers to watch a Republic Day parade and honouring them with shawls can be symbolic appreciation, but it does little to fill the stomachs of those a BJP karyakarta left behind.
Today, within less than 24 hours of the TMC’s victory, at least 3 BJP members have been murdered in the state (the real casualty count is feared to be much higher). Houses of booth agents are being set aflame, and BJP supporters’ shops are being looted. The spokesperson of the party is showing these visuals to gain sympathy, news channels are running these to gain TRP. What are the poor karyakartas, the Bengali Hindus gaining? Are the tall leaders standing in solidarity with the poor who had little to nothing to begin with and still sacrificed it for the party?
The regular Bengali Hindu has seen political bloodshed in its state. It wants a change. BJP leaders have to protect their people to establish the faith in the hearts of Bengali Hindus that they can indeed be the change they promise so loudly.
Bengal and Tripura are very closely connected due to the prominent presence of Bengalis in the north-eastern state. Bengalis, who were elated after BJP’s win in Tripura, are disgruntled due to the non-performance of the BJP dispensation in Tripura helmed by a disappointing Chief Minister. Tripura has seen no progress and development in the past few years of Biplap Deb’s reign, locals allege.
There is utmost dissatisfaction among government employees, especially school teachers who are mostly Bengali. The infrastructure in education and medicine could have been better. Bengalis from Tripura are still visiting Kolkata to get treated, putting up at their ancestral homes and not giving a very upbeat picture of the BJP government in Tripura. This has also impacted BJP votes. If the saffronists can read the pulse of Tripura, they should know that the state is slipping away from their grip and they must act fast.
Unlike the Congress and the Communists, the BJP doesn’t have their representatives in media, entertainment, academia, judiciary and other institutions that can be used to mould public opinion. BJP only has voters. Turning them down or disregarding their opinion wouldn’t auger well for the world’s biggest party.
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