Bengal violence: Why BJP must stand with its cadre

Amitabh Tiwari
·Columnist
·4-min read

Bengal has been burning after the results were announced on Sunday in which the Trinamool Congress scored a near three-fourth majority.

Within 24 hours of election results, many people have been killed in post-poll violence in Bengal, as per reports. Both TMC and BJP have been engaged in a war of words over the violence.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has claimed many party workers have been killed and over 4,000 homes of supporters and party offices attacked, vandalised and set on fire. The Trinamool Congress has claimed five supporters were killed, of those three in East Burdwan, one in Hooghly.

Mamata Banerjee has yet to call for calm and has gone on to blame the BJP for the violence.

Multiple reports of post-poll violence and arson from various parts of West Bengal has prompted the Union home ministry to seek a report from the Bengal government on incidents of attack on opposition workers.

BJP president JP Nadda arrived in Kolkata and will meet violence-affected workers of the party. He will be holding a day-long protest across the country tomorrow, the day Mamata will be sworn-in as Chief Minister of Bengal for the third time.

Prime MinisterNarendra Modi has also called up West Bengal Governor and expressed his concern over the post-poll violence in the state.

The BJP has, meanwhile, moved the Supreme Court over post-poll violence in Bengal. In his petition, BJP’s Gaurav Bhatia demanded a CBI probe into violence in the state.

The violence, if not controlled, could turn out to be similar to one during the 2018 panchayat elections.

While the BJP has made the right noises till now, it needs to understand that PILs, phone calls, reports, etc. would not do justice to the people who voted for it and the cadres who worked for it relentlessly to secure victory.

These people need support on the ground, help to face violence, help with police, law and order authorities, help from BJP MLAs and candidates, they need to be standing together in solidarity and protect its voters, cadre and workers.

Many central leaders who were camping have already gone back to their home states. Party needs to send all its state MPs to Bengal and ask them to camp in their constituencies. It is yuddham, and that too full time. It needs to up the ante for the next five years to have a chance to dislodge Mamata in 2024.

The 2018 panchayat elections were the bloodiest ever witnessed in the history of West Bengal: the current spate of violence seems to be surpassing it, if media reports are to be believed. The TMC won one-third seats unopposed. The Left cadre and supporters faced the wrath of TMC workers, and they turned to the BJP, which was becoming a powerful party.

Most of the Left’s support base, including the upper caste, the Dalits and the Adivasis, moved to the BJP over the years manifesting itself in the 2019 general elections.

‘Agey Ram, Porey Bam’ (First BJP, then Left) became a hit slogan then. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP’s vote share increased to 41% from 17% in 2014; the Left’s vote share declined from 30% percent to 7%. Chup chap, kamal chhap became the rallying cry.

Most of these people stayed with the BJP in the 2021 state elections. It is also said that many local Left leaders asked supporters to vote for the BJP to defeat the TMC in these elections.

The party needs to understand that the bulk of Hindu voters and workers of the Left have shifted to the BJP not because of ideological reasons but for protection as they felt BJP being a national party has the resources to take on the might of musclemen of TMC.

These Left sympathizers consider Mamata as enemy number one and backed the BJP to take on TMC in the elections.

To be fair to BJP, it has stood behind its cadre and workers and given a tit for tat response to TMC across the state. It is said that the party has offered financial assistance to its workers' families who have been killed in violence in the past.

As per CSDS-Lokniti post-poll surveys, in a span of a decade, the proportion of West Bengal electorate that does not identify with any party has almost doubled — from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2019.

This means that the number of committed voters for any party, including the BJP, in a state like Bengal is low. If the BJP doesn’t stand for its cadre, workers and voters, it risks flight of a sizable support base back to the Left parties (from where they had originally come) or other parties.

It’s going to take a lot of effort from the central and state leadership of the BJP to stay committed and invested in Bengal for the next five years, protect its supporters from violence and go for the kill in 2026 state elections. Any lethargy could cost the party its support base.

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