When analysing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prospects in the ongoing West Bengal election, it is important to remind oneself that the party has not come to power ever in the state.
Not only that, it has not even been a contender: the other three major political parties in the fray, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Left, have all held power in the state.
Hence for the BJP to have achieved this space in discourse and political analysis is an achievement in an end in itself.
Like the last runner with the baton in a relay race as it heads towards the finish line, the prospect of a BJP winning the state election is distinct. A prospect that seemed unlikely even two years ago.
Will the BJP pick up pace in the last lap and shoot ahead, that is something May 2 results will let us know. But the confidence of Union Home Minister and former BJP president Amit Shah, is rarely misplaced.
West Bengal has been on the BJP’s radar for long: the bizarre extent to which Mamata Banerjee took appeasement politics, created a whole constituency that not only resents her but is angered by her. Couple that with the anti-incumbency of two terms...
Mamata is no ‘left liberal’ darling: she is single-handedly responsible for the demise of the Left in West Bengal after decades of misrule. However in an election where the Left and the Congress are bystanders, she is all that stands between the BJP and yet another victory. Hence the years of political violence under her rule, which has cost the lives of more than a hundred BJP workers has been ignored.
Her ridiculous policies that show blatant appeasement of minorities, has been explained away, making her more irrational and communal in her responses, be it to the chant of ‘Jai Shri Ram’, or editing ‘Ramdhenu’, i.e. ‘Ramdhenu’ to ‘Rongdhenu’ in school textbooks, so as to not offend!
Senior journalist Abhijit Majumder who has closely covered the West Bengal elections says that many respond with Jai Shri Ram, when asked who they will vote for. This is significant in a state where political violence is the norm and ballot boxes are carried off by party cadre at gunpoint.
It is, in fact, an act of courage and revolt: the chant literally has Mamata stopping in her tracks. Who can forget her chief minister’s cavalcade screeching to a halt when she heard ‘Jai Shri Ram’ from the public, on one of her road trips!
That Didi is frazzled is obvious enough, but that those who claim to be proponents of ‘liberal’ politics and ignore real threats to democracy — like political violence and religious freedom in the state of West Bengal — are already conceding the election, is telling.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, the long distance expert on all things Indian, has already decried Bengal’s choice. Former finance minister P Chidambaram, from the Congress, has bemoaned the ‘communal’ choice from the land of Tagore and Vivekanand.
Reduced to pockets, the adherents of this facile definition of liberal politics thought of Bengal as an outpost, headed by a leader who actually has grassroots connect unlike the dynastic shareholders of the Congress. She could be a contender, they thought.
So in many ways, if she were to fall, it would be the end of an India that they created and hence believed was representative of an India they knew. An India, that was a statue erected in their own likeness, with their belief system, whilst anything beyond that was an aberration.
If Didi loses the election, this 'statue’ will be toppled. And in that, they know, lies a revolution.
Advaita Kala is an author, screenwriter and a columnist. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.