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There are events that construe history. 23rd May 2019 was such in Bengal. With Hindutva brigade making inroads in a big way for the first time, Bengal’s socio-political topography may shift drastically towards the Right in days to come. At the same time sudden rise of the BJP could well spell political death knell for Mamata Banerjee and her party.
How many of us in fact envisioned BJP’s strong and aggressive inroads in West Bengal? So far, West Bengal and the southern states of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were the states unfazed by BJP’s Hindutva politics but now that saffron wave has hit Bengal, it is time for some serious political reflections. There are three questions in hand: what helped the BJP capture 18 seats in West Bengal? What went wrong for Mamata Banerjee? Why did the CPI(M) fail to get even a single seat since its inception in Bengal?
Lok Sabha 2019 election results have indicated two things for West Bengal. Firstly, it indicates that the voters are thoroughly dissatisfied with Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress and secondly it shows that people in Bengal do not mind embracing Saffron terror. Caught between the binaries, a possible way out could have been the CPI(M). However, with continuous organizational disintegration, that looked unlikely.
Let us start with the last question. CPI(M), once known for its organizational stronghold, is now suffering from leadership, youth mobilization and grass root connect. There is a massive dearth of fresh young leaders in the party with which the millennial could identify with. Arguably, this election has witnessed the highest number of voter turnout (67.11%) in independent India. In that view, one wonders, who have the millennial voted? It is likely that they have not voted for the Left-front in West Bengal. With lack of youth leaders and clear-cut agenda in place, it is unfortunate but not illogical that the CPI(M) have not won any seats.
Next, coming to the second question, tunnel vision of vote-bank politics with little focus on actual deliverance went wrong for Mamata Banerjee. West Bengal has always had strong minority voters. It is crucial to remember that while the rest of the country burnt during 6th and 9th December, 1992 during Babri Masjid, Bengal did not experience the communal tremor. However, appeasement policies of the Trinamool Congress during the last eight years have not been taken well by the voters in West Bengal, it seems. No real job creation, massive oppression and violence in the interiors of the state and undivided appeasement towards the Islamic voters have made the non-Islamic or rather the Hindu voters in Bengal vote purely in communal lines i.e. in favour of the BJP.
To add, BJP’s organizational capability proved way stronger than that of TMC or CPI(M). With Hindutva as the fodder, they have captured the pulse of the voters and exploited that right on time. While they have not offered anything tangible to the voters in terms of actual governance in last five years either, they have nonetheless sold the vision of unified India well. As a result, and coming back to the first question in hand, what helped the BJP capture 18 seats in West Bengal is TMC’s failed appeasement policies and the CPI(M)’s invisibility from the public spaces.
In view of the road ahead, rise of the saffron terror of the BJP is likely to help the Left resurrect in Bengal, but it is a clear road to perdition for Mamata Banerjee-led TMC in the state. Once the BJP starts unleashing communal terror in Bengal, voters will soon understand the banality of their governance; but it is unlikely that they will hence turn to the TMC for shelter, a party that is functionally communal without wearing the rob out in public.
Arani is a PhD from Humboldt University. He researches on media and politics in South Asia.