(This article first appeared in the DNA newspaper)
A roadshow of BJP national president Amit Shah was attacked in Kolkata. Priyanka Sharma, an activist of BJP’s youth wing, is arrested in Kolkata for making a meme of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Journalists are heckled during election coverage in Asansol and the body of an opposition party activist is found hanging from a tree in Midnapore.
These are only some of the many incidents that signal that all is not well with democracy in the Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal. The ‘Mamata model of politics’, it seems, has no room for opposition, media and free speech.
An Election Commission observer in West Bengal, Ajay Nayak, has said on record that the situation in Bengal is worse than what it was in Bihar 15 years ago. He suggested that more central forces were required in the state to ensure free and fair elections.
Over the last few phases of the general elections, more central forces have been deployed in the state, but with their presence restricted to polling booths. With the state police remaining truculent, the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) activists are on the rampage.
Polling officers — usually state government employees — fear the wrath of the Mamata government if they don’t act in favour of her party.
Several videos have surfaced where TMC activists are seen casting votes under the pretext of helping voters, with the polling officers looking on sheepishly.
Mamata has gone on record saying that she will have her revenge inch-by-inch after the elections. Terrified, helpless and cheated by the current TMC government, the voters are silent. But, masked in their silence, a greater change is afoot. Opposition parties have accused the TMC of giving shelter to anarchist elements and using foul means to garner votes.
The BJP has emerged as the principal opposition party after the panchayat elections and most activists who have bled in the wake of political violence are from the BJP.
A few months ago in the panchayat elections, too, the TMC had created a similar environment of terror. So much so that the high court had to allow opposition candidates to file nomination via email and WhatsApp, as they could not make it to the nomination centres in the wake of violence unleashed by TMC activists.
Opposition candidates, who eventually won the panchayat election, could not return home fearing violence. More than 50 BJP activists lost their lives during these panchayat elections.
This environment of political violence unfolding in Bengal is a legacy of the Left Front government that ruled the state for 34 years and which Mamata had opposed and uprooted.
In 2011, the Mamata government was formed with the slogan of ‘ma, mati, manush’ (mother, motherland, people). At that time Mamata stood for the farmers of Nandigram and Singur, where the CPM-led Left Front had used violence to suppress voices.
Today, Mamata’s line of political thought panders to the state’s nearly 30 per cent Muslim population, of which many are illegal Bangladeshis.
Therefore, it stems from this that in a matriarchal society like Bengal, there were reports of Kali Pooja, Durga Pooja and Saraswati Pooja being stalled to respect the sentiments of a community.
In 2017, Durga idol immersion was stalled for two days by the administration on account of Muharram. Last year, processions on Hanuman Jayanti were stopped and vandalised as the police stood mute witness.
What started with ‘ma, mati, manush’ in 2008-2009 has now clearly been reduced to ‘Mamata, Muslims and Muharram’, with Hindus and their symbols becoming soft targets and Muslim appeasement politics touching a new low.
It is clear Mamata has chosen her politics to garner Muslim support. On several occasions, she has spoken in favour of illegal Bangladeshi migrants too. In the ongoing general elections, Bangladeshi actors were called in to campaign for TMC candidates.
Today, appeasement, extortion and illegal migration have emerged as the most important issues that have left an average Bengali troubled. Ranging from the Bhadralok of Kolkata to the rural population of Midnapore – the disquiet over TMC’s strong arm appeasement, extortion and support of illegal migrants is palpable.
The weakened Congress and the CPM are in no position to offer an alternative to TMC’s politics. As a result, a large section of voters are now looking to BJP for help and support. This was why the BJP won several seats in the Bengal panchayat election.
Instead of countering allegations, Mamata has gone further into the deep end by using the power at her disposal to silence resistance.
Little does she realise that by not allowing the helicopters of Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath to land for political rallies, she’s only validating their claim on the electorate.
Earlier this month, when a group of youth chanted ‘Joy Shri Ram’ (read Jai Shri Ram) as Mamata’s cavalcade passed by, the CM lost her cool. She stopped her vehicle and threatened them with dire consequences.
The events of the last few years have created a background and environment where people are fed up with the Mamata administration and for them, the enchanting of ‘Joy Shri Ram’ has emerged as a slogan of resistance against the Trinamool model of politics where there is no space and scope for other voices.
The land of Aurobindo, Vivekanand, Subhash Bose and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee will not tolerate this.