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Ghost of Polarisation to Haunt Mamata Banerjee After BJP Storms Bengal Bastion

Both the Left front and Congress have been accusing Banerjee of facilitating BJP’s entry into West Bengal by 'feeding the politics of polarisation'.

Hridayesh Joshi |

Updated:May 24, 2019, 1:36 PM IST
Ghost of Polarisation to Haunt Mamata Banerjee After BJP Storms Bengal Bastion
File photo of West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC Supremo Mamata Banerjee. (Image: PTI)

The reflection of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections was also visible in West Bengal, where the party won 18 of 42 seats with more than a 40 per cent vote share and restricted the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to 23 seats. The Left could not win a single seat, while the Congress had to be satisfied with just one seat in its kitty.

With its advancement in Odisha and Bengal, the BJP has completed its mission of winning East India successfully. Though the party has its footprint all over the country now, winning West Bengal has special significance.

The BJP had won two seats and 17 per cent votes in the last Lok Sabha elections but its vote percentage slipped to around 10 per cent in the 2016 state assembly polls when the CPM and Congress fought the election together. The TMC had won almost 42 per cent votes in the 2016 assembly polls.

The BJP more than doubled its vote share jumping from 17 per cent to 40.2 per cent and took away a major chunk of the Left and Congress. In a sharply polarised and bitterly fought election in the state, the BJP’s action plan worked perfectly and the party achieved its target.

“Defeat Narendra Modi, send him back to Gujarat” was the message of Mamata Banerjee and workers of her Trinamool Congress for their voters during the election campaign in West Bengal. This reporter had met a TMC councillor — Aftauddin Ahmad — in Diamond Harbor Lok Sabha seat where Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek was in the fray.

“Narendra Modi wants to implement NRC and send us Muslims to Bangladesh. We have decided to defeat him and send him back to Gujarat. We are telling our voters this,” he said. Though Abhishek retained his seat by a slim margin, the BJP swept a major chunk of Lok Sabha seats in an ominous sign to its rivals.

The BJP’s victory has proved that issues of cow smuggling, Muslim appeasement and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants appealed to all. Though the TMC increased its vote share slightly to 43 per cent, voters’ anger with the party because of its high-handedness and corruption pushed them towards the BJP.

The BJP’s victory in Bengal, meanwhile, has several meanings and is bound to change the rules of politics in a state that remained a Left bastion for decades. There are also speculations of a rift in the ruling party, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared at a rally that 40 MLAs were in touch with him and BJP leader Mukul Roy said over 125 MLAs were ready to join him.

At a time when political upheaval is expected in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, will Bengal also walk the same path? Experts are of the opinion that the assembly in the state, which saw widespread violence during polls, may be dissolved and make way for early polls if more violence breaks out.

Both the Left front and Congress have been accusing Banerjee of facilitating BJP’s entry into West Bengal by “feeding the politics of polarisation”. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury had issued a statement recently saying that Left is committed to fight both TMC and BJP as they are helping each other grow.

Bengal has around 30 per cent Muslim population and more than a dozen bordering districts. “If BJP is advancing and prospering today in Bengal it is because of Mamata ji who has shrunk the secular space here,” said Congress leader Adheer Ranjan Chaudhary.

The Bengal Chief Minister had made it clear in her rallies that she “will not allow even the ‘N’ of NRC” in the state. However, the BJP has made it clear that it will take the political battle seriously in Bengal. “We will not tolerate politics of appeasement and bring the law to throw out intruders,” Amit Shah had said in his rallies.

As Mamata Banerjee braces for a long and grueling battle, she will surely be confronted by the ghost of polarisation.

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