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Communalism Politics

Battleground Bengal: Communal hues grow darker

From rath yatras, to pitting deities, there’s nothing the BJP won’t do to consolidate its vote bank of supremacists

Deborah Grey 24 Feb 2021

Bengal Election

During his latest visit to the poll-bound state of West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “Asol Poriborton” or real change, taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s original promise of “Poriborton” or change that helped her come to power in the state. But in light of the growing communalization of the election campaign, one wonders if as far as the BJP and the Modi government are concerned, the more things change, the more they remain the same?

For example, take a look at the tweet by BJP’s minder for Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya on Saturday where he said, “West Bengal’s equation! Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui is TMC’s deputy chief minister. The chief minister of the Congress-CPM alliance is Abdul Mannad. Calcutta’s mayor is Firhad Hakim. Which way is Bengal heading? Bengal’s people will have to think!”

 

 

Though he did not say it outright, the communal undertones of the tweet are evident and resonate with BJP’s age-old allegation that the Banerjee government engages in minority appeasement.

But that’s not all. Last Thursday, union minister and BJP heavyweight Amit Shah visited the Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s head office to pay tributes to its founder Yugacharya Swami Pranavananda Maharaj. He was accompanied by state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, senior leader Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya himself. Interestingly though, last year it was Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had inaugurated the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations for the spiritual leader.

The BJP has also flagged five ‘Poriborton Rath Yatras’ in the state in five zones of the state covering 294 constituencies. While BJP President JP Nadda flagged on three, Shah himself flagged off two. But The Telegraph reports that the response from local residents has been rather underwhelming. “The turnout was less than expected on Indira Maidan on Thursday. Empty patches of the field reminded party leaders of the lukewarm response the flag-offs received at Tarapith, Nabadwip and Lalgarh.,” reported the publication.

Shah had also paid a visit to the Kapil Muni temple and promised to make the Uttarayan Mela (Gangasagar) a part of the international tourist circuit. Shah also flagged off three cycle rallies in the state. 300 cyclists divided into three teams named after freedom fighters: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Rash Behari Bose and Khudiram Bose, would reportedly cover 900 kilometers over 30 days purportedly to visit homes of 400 unsung freedom fighters in the state.

But BJP might have pushed their luck, when Dilip Ghosh questioned the antecedents of Goddess Durga, a beloved deity in West Bengal. Speaking at the India Today Conclave, Ghosh had said, “Lord Ram was an emperor. Some consider him an avatar (incarnation). We know the names of his ancestors. Do we know the same about Durga? So, he is considered as maryada purushottam. Here [in Bengal] we have the Bengali version of Ramayana too. So Ram is an adarsh purush, maryada puroshottameven Gandhiji spoke about Ram Rajya.”

This is a throwback to when Mamata Banerjee and her supporters refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and instead responded with “Jai Maa Kali” or “Jai Maa Durga”. Ghosh’s comments did not go down well with people in the state, where some of the biggest festivals are dedicated to Goddess Durga or one of her avatars. Also, pitting one religious deity against another appears to be in poor taste. Given how both deities belong to the same religion, this is yet another unnecessary divisive tactic, one that could divide the very vote bank BJP is trying to consolidate.

Coercive tactics at play?

Meanwhile, on the night of February 17, TMC state Minister and Jangipur MLA Jakir Hossain was severely injured when unidentified men hurled a crude bomb at him at Nimtita railway station in Murshidabad district. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that Hossain was being pressured to switch parties, and attacked because he refused.

Speaking to media persons after taking stock of Hossain’s condition at the SSKM Hospital where he was admitted in the Trauma Care Unit, Banerjee had said, “It was a preplanned attack on minister Jakir Hossain. It is a conspiracy.” She added, “Some people were pressuring Jakir Hossian to join them for the last few months. I don't want to disclose anything more as investigation is on.” The matter is being investigated by the state Crime Investigation Department (CID).

Interestingly, the BJP used the incident to blame the Banerjee government for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. BJP president Dilip Ghosh told The Telegraph, “The incident shows that West Bengal is not safe even for ministers. The government has failed to control the law and order.”

On February 20, he accused TMC workers of “hurling bombs” at his rally. He tweeted, “#PoliticalTerrorists of TMC attacked and hurled bombs today at our #PoribortonYatra held at Minakha, Basirhat (North 24 Parganas zela). An orchestrated and planned attack to create terror in people's mind. People of Paschim Banga will put in their mandate at the right time.”

 

 

Meanwhile, despite the fact that election dates have not been announced, there has been heavy deployment of central forces in the state. The Election Commission of India reportedly intends to deploy a total of 125 companies of central forces in West Bengal by February 25 for the upcoming assembly elections citing a senior official. These would include 60 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 30 companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and five companies each of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Of these, according to NDTV, at least 12 companies of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), have already arrived in the state. EC officials told NDTV that last week, two companies of the central forces reached Durgapur by train, one company got down at Burdwan. Five companies reached Dankuni in Howrah. Meanwhile, four companies reached the Kolkata railway station in the Chitpore area by train.

But that’s not all. Abhishek Banerjee, who is seen by many as his aunt Mamata Banerjee’s political heir apparent has found himself in the BJP’s crosshairs. His wife Ruchira is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a coal smuggling case.

Abhishek tweeted a copy of the CBI notice and said, “At 2pm today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down.”

 

 

Mamata fights back

Meanwhile, addressing a rally in Hooghly on February 24, Mamata Banerjee called Modi the “biggest Dangabaaz” and said that a ”fate worse than Donald Trump” awaited him. Banerjee was speaking at the same location where Modi had held his rally a few days ago. She shot back at the BJP saying, “I will be the goalkeeper in the assembly polls and BJP will not be able to score a single goal.” 

 

Related:

Battleground Bengal: From bomb blasts to ‘bandobast’

Will Rajbanshis play kingmaker in West Bengal assembly polls?

Battleground Bengal: Communal hues grow darker

From rath yatras, to pitting deities, there’s nothing the BJP won’t do to consolidate its vote bank of supremacists

Bengal Election

During his latest visit to the poll-bound state of West Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised “Asol Poriborton” or real change, taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s original promise of “Poriborton” or change that helped her come to power in the state. But in light of the growing communalization of the election campaign, one wonders if as far as the BJP and the Modi government are concerned, the more things change, the more they remain the same?

For example, take a look at the tweet by BJP’s minder for Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya on Saturday where he said, “West Bengal’s equation! Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui is TMC’s deputy chief minister. The chief minister of the Congress-CPM alliance is Abdul Mannad. Calcutta’s mayor is Firhad Hakim. Which way is Bengal heading? Bengal’s people will have to think!”

 

 

Though he did not say it outright, the communal undertones of the tweet are evident and resonate with BJP’s age-old allegation that the Banerjee government engages in minority appeasement.

But that’s not all. Last Thursday, union minister and BJP heavyweight Amit Shah visited the Bharat Sevashram Sangha’s head office to pay tributes to its founder Yugacharya Swami Pranavananda Maharaj. He was accompanied by state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, senior leader Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya himself. Interestingly though, last year it was Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had inaugurated the 125th year birth anniversary celebrations for the spiritual leader.

The BJP has also flagged five ‘Poriborton Rath Yatras’ in the state in five zones of the state covering 294 constituencies. While BJP President JP Nadda flagged on three, Shah himself flagged off two. But The Telegraph reports that the response from local residents has been rather underwhelming. “The turnout was less than expected on Indira Maidan on Thursday. Empty patches of the field reminded party leaders of the lukewarm response the flag-offs received at Tarapith, Nabadwip and Lalgarh.,” reported the publication.

Shah had also paid a visit to the Kapil Muni temple and promised to make the Uttarayan Mela (Gangasagar) a part of the international tourist circuit. Shah also flagged off three cycle rallies in the state. 300 cyclists divided into three teams named after freedom fighters: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Rash Behari Bose and Khudiram Bose, would reportedly cover 900 kilometers over 30 days purportedly to visit homes of 400 unsung freedom fighters in the state.

But BJP might have pushed their luck, when Dilip Ghosh questioned the antecedents of Goddess Durga, a beloved deity in West Bengal. Speaking at the India Today Conclave, Ghosh had said, “Lord Ram was an emperor. Some consider him an avatar (incarnation). We know the names of his ancestors. Do we know the same about Durga? So, he is considered as maryada purushottam. Here [in Bengal] we have the Bengali version of Ramayana too. So Ram is an adarsh purush, maryada puroshottameven Gandhiji spoke about Ram Rajya.”

This is a throwback to when Mamata Banerjee and her supporters refused to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and instead responded with “Jai Maa Kali” or “Jai Maa Durga”. Ghosh’s comments did not go down well with people in the state, where some of the biggest festivals are dedicated to Goddess Durga or one of her avatars. Also, pitting one religious deity against another appears to be in poor taste. Given how both deities belong to the same religion, this is yet another unnecessary divisive tactic, one that could divide the very vote bank BJP is trying to consolidate.

Coercive tactics at play?

Meanwhile, on the night of February 17, TMC state Minister and Jangipur MLA Jakir Hossain was severely injured when unidentified men hurled a crude bomb at him at Nimtita railway station in Murshidabad district. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that Hossain was being pressured to switch parties, and attacked because he refused.

Speaking to media persons after taking stock of Hossain’s condition at the SSKM Hospital where he was admitted in the Trauma Care Unit, Banerjee had said, “It was a preplanned attack on minister Jakir Hossain. It is a conspiracy.” She added, “Some people were pressuring Jakir Hossian to join them for the last few months. I don't want to disclose anything more as investigation is on.” The matter is being investigated by the state Crime Investigation Department (CID).

Interestingly, the BJP used the incident to blame the Banerjee government for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. BJP president Dilip Ghosh told The Telegraph, “The incident shows that West Bengal is not safe even for ministers. The government has failed to control the law and order.”

On February 20, he accused TMC workers of “hurling bombs” at his rally. He tweeted, “#PoliticalTerrorists of TMC attacked and hurled bombs today at our #PoribortonYatra held at Minakha, Basirhat (North 24 Parganas zela). An orchestrated and planned attack to create terror in people's mind. People of Paschim Banga will put in their mandate at the right time.”

 

 

Meanwhile, despite the fact that election dates have not been announced, there has been heavy deployment of central forces in the state. The Election Commission of India reportedly intends to deploy a total of 125 companies of central forces in West Bengal by February 25 for the upcoming assembly elections citing a senior official. These would include 60 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 30 companies of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and five companies each of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). Of these, according to NDTV, at least 12 companies of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), have already arrived in the state. EC officials told NDTV that last week, two companies of the central forces reached Durgapur by train, one company got down at Burdwan. Five companies reached Dankuni in Howrah. Meanwhile, four companies reached the Kolkata railway station in the Chitpore area by train.

But that’s not all. Abhishek Banerjee, who is seen by many as his aunt Mamata Banerjee’s political heir apparent has found himself in the BJP’s crosshairs. His wife Ruchira is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a coal smuggling case.

Abhishek tweeted a copy of the CBI notice and said, “At 2pm today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down.”

 

 

Mamata fights back

Meanwhile, addressing a rally in Hooghly on February 24, Mamata Banerjee called Modi the “biggest Dangabaaz” and said that a ”fate worse than Donald Trump” awaited him. Banerjee was speaking at the same location where Modi had held his rally a few days ago. She shot back at the BJP saying, “I will be the goalkeeper in the assembly polls and BJP will not be able to score a single goal.” 

 

Related:

Battleground Bengal: From bomb blasts to ‘bandobast’

Will Rajbanshis play kingmaker in West Bengal assembly polls?

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