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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Why some Hindus in West Bengal are concerned about “Mamata-Modi setting”

The conspiracy theory of a “Mamata-Modi setting” has started to do rounds on the streets of West Bengal and it certainly does not augur well for BJP’s future in the border state.

As the CBI is now looking into the most serious cases of West Bengal’s post-poll violence in which Hindus, mostly the ones that identify as BJP workers or supporters, were attacked and persecuted by the ruling party, a sizable chunk of Hindu Bengali supporters of the BJP had been somewhat forgiving of the party’s relative inaction when their workers were getting targeted after Mamata Banerjee’s victory was announced on May 2.

However, off late, a conspiracy theory about a ‘setting’ (secret understanding) or what some are calling CATI (Coincidental Alignment of Temporary Interests) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is abuzz in West Bengal. 

Are these conspiracy theories unfounded?

BJP ideologues and articulate voices like Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta have dismissed such talk as fanciful gossip. However, many in Bengal claim to have observed a pattern in which the political rival duo sometimes behaves in a manner that raises eyebrows.

The TMC orchestrated violence in West Bengal saw no retaliation from the BJP during the peak of the bloodshed. Though a case is now ongoing at the Calcutta High Court, cases go on for decades without any concrete outcome in Bharat. Several cases are already going on against various TMC leaders including various chit fund scams, but who has ever been sentenced for their crimes?

The people of West Bengal have not forgotten the utter failure of the central agencies in nabbing ex-top cop Rajeev Kumar. While the ministers of the BJP did not step out of their AC living rooms fearing damages to their cars, the state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on an indefinite dharna to defend Kumar and did not cooperate with the CBI, a shocking step by any state leader in recent times which the BJP could have acted strongly against, but they did nothing. 

After the election results, many BJP candidates demanded a recount of the votes after the poll results. But, baring a couple of candidates, the court did not accept other requests and central BJP also paid no heeds to the claims made by their contestants. 

Bhabanipur (Bhawanipore) bypoll fast-tracked for Mamata?

Regardless of the high-voltage speeches delivered by BJP top leaders and the Prime Minister at the election rallies, there is a perception that BJP has allowed Mamata Banerjee to secure the CM chair even after her iconic defeat to Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram in the March-April 2021 WB assembly elections. It was imperative for Mamata to win a by-poll from another constituency and become an MLA within 6 months, to continue as the state’s CM. 

The Election Commission (EC), many believe, quite eagerly announced the date of the by-polls in the Bhabanipur Assembly constituency that Banerjee had picked to contest from; it was also her home constituency and winning it was considered a cakewalk for the TMC supremo. The Corona cases were on a rise at that time, public transportation was not functioning, educational institutions were closed and the disaster management act was also in action.

Despite this, the EC, it is speculated, went out of the way (at the centre’s prodding) to prioritize and conduct that by-poll on September 30, in effect ensuring that Banerjee continues as CM.

According to an EC press note at the time of announcing the by-poll date, the West Bengal chief secretary had informed that in view of ‘administrative exigencies and public interest’ and to avoid a vacuum in the state, bye-elections for Bhabanipur, from where CM Mamata Banerjee intends to contest elections, may be conducted.

“While the commission has decided not to hold bye-elections in other 31 Assembly Constituencies and three Parliamentary constituencies (across India), considering the constitutional exigency and special request from state of West Bengal, it has decided to hold bye-election in 159-Bhabanipur AC,” EC said.

The Modi-Mamata meet held in November in Delhi had also left supporters of the BJP quite perturbed. A popular leader of Bengal BJP, Arjun Singh expressed his concern claiming that such meetings make ground workers of the party lose their hopes. They feel that we are being targeted by the TMC cadres here while the PM and CM share camaraderie in Delhi, said Arjun Singh. The parliamentarian from the Barrackpore constituency also alleged that Banerjee visits the PM in Delhi just to keep her nephew (Abhishekh Banerjee, President, All India Trinamool Congress) safe as he is facing several probes from investigative agencies. 

Whatever the constitutional obligations a PM has, it doesn’t go down well with supporters when the PM wishes Mamata Banerjee on her birthday on January 5, the very same day that yet another BJP worker, Shuvro Jyoti Ghosh, is found hanging, suspected to have been murdered by TMC goons.

The Mamata-Modi ‘setting’ conspiracy is also popular among the communists and their supporters in the state. There can be no denying that BJP supporters’ confidence in the party’s leadership has been eroded, not as much for their 2021 defeat as for their inaction towards TMC’s post-poll violence and against corrupt TMC ministers, leaders and bureaucrats. It is now up to the flagbearers of the saffron party to reclaim their lost trust.

It is also a stinging indictment of our flawed multi-party democracy and our mentally colonized elite, that feudal regional chieftains and Breaking India forces are allowed to hold the entire country hostage. Often, unsavory deals have to be cut with dubious entities for the larger good.

National leaders who desire long-term growth and progress of the country are projected as ‘autocrats’ (new terms like ‘electoral autocracy‘ are coined to delegtimize them) , while fascist regional leaders serving vested interests are touted as ‘saviors of democracy’. Our electoral system incentivizes discord and friction between Hindus along jati/regional faultlines while pampering minority fundamentalism and exclusivism.

The good news from West Benga lis that BJP MLA & Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Suvendu Adhikari is fast gaining a reputation as a plain-speaking, energetic leader who has his pulse on grassroots issues, has the heart to resist Mamata’s fascism and doesn’t mince words in standing up for Hindu issues, whether it is the post-poll violence or the deadly Durga Puja pogrom unleashed on Hindus across the border.

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