Violence-Hit Bengal is an Islamist time bomb, but Mamata Banerjee remains in denial
Footage of violence in a particular district of Kolkata surfaced on national television and social media on Monday. However, local media coverage in Kolkata and West Bengal was reduced. Apparently, local channels have been told to exercise restraint given the busy atmosphere in the community. The news has a way of traveling and bloody videos of the attacks have circulated. Although there have been no major incidents of riots in the recent past, Kolkata has a long history of communal splintering since the days before partition. Memories of these episodes have been passed down from generation to generation and have taught the affected community to avoid impulsive retaliation. But the wounds and scars remain.
Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Swapan Dasgupta tweeted: “The unleashed mob violence…in the Kidderpore-Mominpur area of Kolkata…stems from distorted empowerment resulting from the belief that a community is above the law.
This was a rallying point for his party but unfortunately for lack of electoral success he was unable to make much progress in his cause. Thus, to a large extent, the current state of affairs can be attributed to the absence of an effective opposition in the state not today but for more than forty years, when the parties in power deliberately hijacked the gaze, ignoring a silent demographic shift. -engineering was happening in the state. This is neither anecdotal nor a matter of perception. A cursory examination of the religious and ethnic composition of the state would indicate the change not just at the macro level, but in specific geographic pockets.
Hearing the ruling All India Trinamool Congress spokespersons defend the incidents would sound like they are living in an alternate universe. They certainly cannot ignore the realities on the ground. Their protests over biased coverage by the national media, allegedly instigated by the BJP, seem futile. The parallels drawn with incidents in BJP-ruled states are misleading. Being in politics, they can’t be naive enough to believe that people don’t know what’s going on around them. So what is the thinking behind such a strategy of stubborn denial.
First, the belief that the party’s electoral machine and its captive vote bank can overcome any challenge from the opposition. The results of the 2021 Assembly polls have bolstered that confidence to arrogance. Despite a substantial increase in the number of seats (from 3 to 77) and vote share (from 10.1% to 38%), the BJP failed to dislodge Trinamool. Its subsequent collapse revealed organizational weakness and a leadership deficit that will be difficult to overcome in the short term. Having learned the hard way, the central party leadership is unlikely to repeat the mistake of depending on defectors to topple Trinamool. Among other opposition parties, Congress has been decimated and a depleted force that seems far beyond redemption. The CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) was razed. Although it shows some signs of renewal, it does not look like the proverbial phoenix that can rise from the ashes. This may partly explain this attitude of defiance in the face of irrefutable evidence.
There is a second consideration that may dictate the position of Trinamool spokespersons. It is their concern to preserve the image of the state government given the ambitions of its supreme leader, Mamata Banerjee, to be at the center of national politics ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. With several other contenders on the pitch vying for the lead role in the opposition cast, Banerjee can’t afford any nicks to his reputation. Hence the all-out attempt to stave off any negative publicity and blame it on the central government.
However, not all is in favor of the West Bengal government. Ongoing investigations by the Directorate of Law Enforcement (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have put the government on hold. Even the hype and publicity surrounding the Durga Puja carnival could not erase the accumulated negative perception. Communal clashes on the day of Eid-e-Milad and Kojagari Lakshmi Puja (a very important festival for Bengalis marking the end of Puja festivities) have revealed the unease and fault lines that have developed over the years. year.
BJP clears the playing field every step of the way. Its new leadership duo, Suvendu Adhikari and Sukanta Majumdar, are showing renewed courage and determination. This was evident in their response to the Kidderpore-Mominpur violence and also “Nabanna Abhijan” before the Pujas. They regularly escalate issues to the central government, which maintains a studied silence. Meanwhile, with the Durga Puja season behind us, we can expect investigative agencies to resume their investigations with more enthusiasm, which will likely lead to more high-profile arrests and startling revelations. The Trinamool, of course, understands the implications and plays its cards carefully. Lately, he has toned down the rhetoric and calibrated his criticism of the central government.
Raising many eyebrows, changing her previous stance, Mamata Banerjee gave a virtual thumbs up to Narendra Modi saying the probes weren’t launched at his request. There have been few other reconciliation measures such as restoring the names of some central government aided programs such as Rural Housing in Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awas Yojana (PMGAY). It’s hard to guess whether these were caused by the heat from the probes or the state’s dire financial situation. But the sudden modulation of voice is noticeable, as is the conscious reduction in his share of voice on the national stage.
Some believe that the central government is waiting for the situation to mature before imposing the presidential regime. But this is unlikely as politically it may not suit the BJP handing over the victim card to Trinamool. He would therefore prefer to wait for the party to collapse under its own internal dynamics. The Trinamool may still think it’s invincible and impregnable. However, he perhaps underestimates the latent anger of the population both on corruption issues and on socio-religious tensions.
The BJP may take time to recover. An unwitting beneficiary of this anti-incumbent could be the CPI-M, if it is able to remobilize its cadre base under its new state leadership. Md Salim, who took office as West Bengal’s Secretary of State, also has access to the dominant minority community. If the CPI-M is able to wean a slice of that vote against Trinamool with a portion of the anti-incumbent vote, it can put Trinamool in a position.
Historically, regime change in West Bengal has not happened peacefully. Of course, the ruling party controls the state apparatus of law enforcement. Except in extraordinary situations such as during the reign of the president or the pre-election period. The intervention of the judiciary in law enforcement has its limits. However, he cannot allow the state to be plunged into the kind of anarchy it experienced in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
West Bengal has the added sensibility of being a border state. The presence of terrorist infiltrators and sleeper cells cannot be ruled out and is a threat that the central security establishment cannot ignore. There are no easy answers. Nothing can be achieved unless the state government is aligned and committed. At the moment, he shows no mood to buckle up. It will take tremendous ingenuity on the part of the central government and the judiciary to avert an impending crisis. Frankly and sadly, the prospects don’t look bright for West Bengal at the moment.
The author is a news commentator, marketer, blogger and leadership coach, who tweets at @SandipGhose. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
Read all Latest opinion news and recent news here