Last Wednesday, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) West Bengal president Dilip Ghosh called the state a “second Kashmir” alleging there were more terrorists in Bengal than in Kashmir.
Ghosh was addressing BJP workers in Birbhum and The Telegraph quoted him as saying, “All terrorists are being arrested from Bengal. It is more than the number of terrorists arrested in Kashmir. All terrorists have taken shelter in Bengal. Arrests (of terrorists) were made twice from Murshidabad. Bengal has become second Kashmir.”
Ghosh’s comment was a deeply communal jibe at West Bengal’s Muslim population that traditionally does not vote for the BJP. Thus, ‘othering’ and demonising Muslims, appears to be BJP’s strategy to consolidate the Hindu vote bank, in a bid to win the assembly elections scheduled to take place in the state next year.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) wasted no time in countering Ghosh. TMC MP Sougata Roy likened Ghosh’s remarks to those by actor Kangana Ranaut who had recently compared Mumbai to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
It is noteworthy that this comment comes close at the heels of another comment by Ghosh about the desire to change Bengal. The Indian Express quoted Ghosh saying, “We want to turn Bengal into Gujarat once we form a government here… We will turn Bengal into Gujarat, so that our children get jobs here and do not have to migrate to Gujarat.” Ghosh reportedly said this while meeting people in Barasat in 24 Parganas on November 16.
BJP losing Gorkha support?
Meanwhile, BJP appears to be finding a place in the bad books of the Gorkha community. On Sunday, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s Bimal Gurung faction (GJM-BG) leader Roshan Giri urged people to “uproot” the BJP from the region as the party had failed to find a “permanent political solution” to the plight of Gorkhas.
Giri who is seen as second-in-command in the GJM-BG was expressing the community’s frustration with the BJP, given how the dream for a separate state of Gorkhaland, a deeply emotive issue with the community, still remains a pipedream. GJM-BG ended their alliance with the BJP after 11 years, last month and have now allied with the TMC.
GJM’s Binay Tamang-Anit Thapa faction is already a TMC ally. Though they too held a rally on Monday to counter their rival faction. Thapa, who is the President of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, “We would like to tell the state government that they must not play foul with us. We have been openly stating that we are working with the government. The government must understand (it).”
However, both GJM factions falling over themselves to prove who is a worthier ally for TMC, certainly does not bode well for the BJP.
Mamata faces relentless onslaught, struggles to hold fort
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is busy keeping her flock together. Two-time TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari resigned from Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet on Friday. Adhikari, whose father Sisir Adhikari is TMC MP from Kanthi, resigned from the post of West Bengal Minister of Transport, Irrigation and Water Resources. He also resigned as Chairman of Haldia Development Authority as well as Hooghly River Bridge Commission. Suvendu Adhikari exercises a lot of influence and TMC is trying hard to woo him back into their fold amidst increasing speculation that he will join the BJP. Though on Monday night after a three hour-long meeting, Adhikari and TMC appear to have reached a temporary truce with him putting hold plans to leave the party.
In another blow to the party on Friday, TMC MLA from Cooch Behar Dakshin Mihir Goswami joined the BJP. Meanwhile, Banerjee is said to be watching all possible defectors with a hawk’s eye. The absence of some key leaders including those who exercise influence among Tea Estate workers and at the Zilla Parishad level, from a meeting at the party’s district office on Monday in Alipurduars, did not go unnoticed with whispers of a show-cause notice being contemplated for the absentees.