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BJP's self-goal in Bengal and north east

February 06, 2019 10:56 IST

'After a longish time being on the defensive on the Muslim issue, Mamata found in the Centre's surgical strike just the kind of battle in which she specialises -- hand-to-hand combat.'
'Having routed the once formidable Marxists by her trademark, no-holds-barred belligerence, she is now ready to employ the same tactics against the BJP,' predicts Amulya Ganguli.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

The BJP's overzealousness in pursuing its various agendas may cost it the creeping advances which the party was making in West Bengal and the north east.

There is little doubt that the BJP was gaining ground in Mamata Banerjee's home province by playing the communal card, which it always keeps up its sleeve.

By accusing the chief minister of appeasing Muslims -- as the BJP has done for decades against the Congress -- the Hindutva brigade was slowing stepping into the political spaces left vacant by the retreating Marxists and the West Bengal Congress.

Pleased with the progress which the BJP was apparently making, Amit Anilchandra Shah predicted that his party would win half of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

But by letting loose the caged parrot of the CBI on the Kolkata police commissioner, the BJP made the fatal mistake of playing into Mamata's hands.

After a longish time being on the defensive on the Muslim issue, she found in the Centre's surgical strike on the police commissioner's Loudon Street residence in Kolkata just the kind of battle in which she specialises -- hand-to-hand combat.

Having routed the once formidable Marxists by her trademark, no-holds-barred belligerence, she is now ready to employ the same tactics against the BJP.

The latter is not very adept at such street-level jousts unless it is a spell of communal riots.

But riots have become somewhat counterproductive in the aftermath of Gujarat 2002.

So, the BJP now prefers insinuation and innuendo, such as that West Bengal would turn into Pakistan, as Union Minister Giriraj Singh said a few days ago, if Didi stays in power.

But such feints will not work in the face of Mamata's frontal assault with her charge that the federal structure is under threat.

Nor will the BJP's line that she is shielding the corrupt in the Sarada-Narada and other cases because Mamata has now turned the issue into one of asmita or of the state's image.

Narendra Damodardas Modi will be familiar with this word for he had used it countless times to deflect attention from the 2002 conflagration by saying that the charges against him were intended to malign Gujarat's reputation.

It is clear that Mamata has found her weapon for the general election.

For all practical purposes, therefore, the BJP can write off its dream of winning Bengali hearts and minds.

Similarly, the BJP may be losing north eastern hearts and minds as well because of its insistence on the Citizenship Bill which refuses to grant refugee status to Muslims as it does to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and even Christians.

By including Christians in the list, the BJP has gone against Guru (Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar's diktat about this particular community being India's internal enemy No 2 unlike the Muslims -- who else? -- being internal enemy No 1. But that is another story.

Instead, what is relevant here is the realisation in the north eastern states, where the BJP has been gaining a foothold, about the party's intensely communal mindset.

The BJP may have been able to partially camouflage its objections to the consumption of beef in the north east, waiting for gaining more influence before imposing its culinary fads.

But the party's stridently anti-Muslim stance, helpfully enunciated by Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's description of the internal enemy No 2 as 'Jinnahs', has removed the scales from north eastern eyes.

In the north east, as in the rest of the country, the 'Jinnahs' are not as unwanted as the BJP would like them to be.

In both West Bengal and the north east, therefore, the BJP will now have to take into account the possibility of not being able to make the kind of gains which it was expecting to do to compensate for the party's expected losses in northern and western India.

Amulya Ganguli writes on current affairs.

Amulya Ganguli
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