The unprecedented participation of people in Shri Ram Navami celebrations and now the substantial increase in BJP vote share during recent by-elections show the beginning of countdown for the TMC in the state
Asim Kumar Mitra
A very interesting development has taken place in the political arena of West Bengal. All of a sudden the major political parties of the state have become religion-conscious. More so, they are openly asserting that they, especially the members of the ruling party, TMC, are the real Hindus. This has all begun when the state BJP came out with an open programme to celebrate Shri Ram Navami throughout the state of West Bengal, and the response was so spontaneous and enthusiastic that common people, ignoring their party affiliations or for that matter, the barriers put up joined Shri Ram Navami celebrations with roaring slogan of “Jai Shri Ram”.
The so-called pseudo secularist and self-styled intellectuals, liberals and progressive elements were taken aback. Even they were hesitant, or one can say, afraid of taking out any rally against the highly charged sentiment of the people. Instead the ruling party TMC leaders ordered its cadres to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti to counter Shri Ram Navami celebrations of the BJP.
Taking advantage of the situation, the state Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sachin Singh had taken on the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asking, why she is not coming out with a statement that they are also Hindus? To protect her own identity and ‘vote bank’, she did not lose much time to call herself “a Sachcha Hindu” and at the same time she said that “RSS and BJP brand of Hindus are black spot on the face of Hinduism”. Of course, it was noticeable that when she uttered these words she was not in her usual dress with ‘Hizab’ on head which she wears to symbolise herself as a Muslim lady.
This happened in the vicinity of Jagannath Temple, Puri where she was threatened by some locals that if there was any hanky-panky she would not be allowed to enter into the Jagannath Temple for a Darshan, let alone offer Puja to Lord Jagannath.
They reminded Miss Banerjee that former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter the Temple area as she was converted to Islam during her marriage. The beauty of this incident was that Smt Gandhi did not protest and abided by the dictum of the Temple authority.
The immediate result of the BJP-upsurge was reflected in the bye election result of South Contai constituency in Medinipur District. The result has shown a remarkable jump in BJP vote-share which was 30 per cent of the total votes polled. Of course, they could not win the seat, but they could capture the second position while Congress candidates lost their security deposit and the Left Front could gather a shameful third position with votes not beyond four digits.
In West Bengal, Mamata was considered to be the last word for some people. Even, once notorious and ferocious parties like communists, naxals, socialists and others have become meek and docile as TMC has established its ‘nuisance value’. They have started thinking as if they have become invincible. But they could not imagine that a new experience was waiting for them. On April 24, a “Maha Michchil” or grand rally was taken out by Birbhum District BJP. Central observer of the party Kailash Vijayvargeeya, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, actress and party leader Locket Chatterjee, etc. led the rally. In midway, the TMC hooligans started brick-batting and beating the BJP members. But the TMC cadres did not think of any retaliation from BJP side. Dilip Ghosh said, “The countdown for the departure of TMC regime has begun from this day.” On the other hand, Anubrata Mondal, Birbhum district president of TMC, declared that the BJP members had attacked and ransacked their district party office. “We shall take revenge on this in our own way”. So the game has started. BJP national president Amit Shah and other central leaders and central ministers are coming to Bengal batch by batch. Result is awaited.
In this context an article published in The Telegraph on April 20 and written by a senior journalist Swapan Dasgupta is worth serious reading. He has commented in the article that ‘the Hindu nationalist tradition is not alien to West Bengal’. In fact, it was Bengal, which had given the clarion call of Renaissance and Hindu Nationalism under the leadership of Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Viswakavi Rabindranath Thakur, Swami Vivekananda and others. The great role of Veer Savarkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Lal-Bal-Pal (i.e. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal) and others was considered to be the golden chapter of Indian history.
“The Look East policy of the BJP, particularly after the party”s success in Assam and its inroads in Odisha, has generated excitement in West Bengal. Coming in the wake of the complete decimation and demoralisation of the once mighty Communist Party of India (Marxist), there is an expectation that the BJP could grab the anti-Trinamul Congress mantle. Yet, the possibility of this happening has been discounted by many analysts on the ground that the BJP lacks a local idiom,” Swapan Dasgupta writes in the article.