BJP gives TMC a taste of its own medicine


(MS Shanker)

‘Nabanna Abhiyan, the massive protest rally organized by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) across West Bengal, the other day, for the first time saw the BJP in West Bengal take an unusually aggressive stand on the ground. In other words, the BJP was standing up to the TMC Mamata Banerjee style. The TMC chief had originally acquired these tactics from the CPM which ruled the state for a long time beginning with the late 70s.

Hundreds and thousands of BJP supporters came onto the streets of Howrah and Kolkata to march towards the state secretariat demanding the resignation of TMC headed Mamata Banerjee government as several of her cabinet colleagues came under the scanner of the Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), CBI and Income Tax (IT). The agencies have also recovered huge amounts of cash running into several hundred crores stashed at several places allegedly belonging to Mamata’s close aides in the cabinet.

The raids conducted related to teacher recruitment as well as cattle smuggling scams.  While Partha Chatterjee was arrested in the teachers’ recruitment scam Anubrata Mondal was held in the cattle scam.

Apart from these two prominent TMC faces, several other cabinet colleagues, including Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee, is also under the Central agency’s scanner. Many political analysts feel that the BJP seems to have shifted its gears – from adopting a passive and ‘defensive’ approach while allowing the agencies to probe and expose the TMC, to an ‘offensive’ one (taking to the streets to take on the ruling party head-on).

Perhaps, their apprehensions hold some credence as the BJP for the first time could mobilize people with such huge numbers in a protest which turned violent when the police tried to resist the agitationists by putting up permanent barricades.

Never before have BJP workers faced such violent reaction from the police which they resisted with equal force. Also all these years, the BJP cadres did not ever turn violent while taking on West Bengal police. Thousands of party workers were arrested or detained in several districts. Several BJP leaders, including Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, Locket Chatterjee, Taapshi Mondol, and Dibankar Gharami were also among those detained.

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Police stopped BJP workers’ vehicles in many places such as Haldia and Nandigram. As per the BJP’s plan, rallies from three points were to to reach Nabanna, the state secretariat. Adhikari was set to lead a rally from Satraganchi, while party state Chief Sukanta Majumdar is to lead one from Howrah Maidan. Former state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh was to lead workers from College Street. The last time the state BJP carried out such a large-scale campaign was in 2020.

Has the BJP begun to adopt the famous idiom ‘Loha, loha koyi khatti thi hai’ (an iron blade alone can cut an iron bar)? Is it a determined BJP that has finally opted to administer to Mamata Banerjee the medicine that she had used against the ‘rock solid’ erstwhile CPM government, when driven to the wall? As a young Congress leader, Mamata indeed indulged in such violent incidents and even suffered the brutality of the Communist government in the past. She in fact shot into fame as the most aggressive leader or ‘Agnikanya’ after that fiery Nandigram battle she unleashed against the Jyoti Bosu-headed CPM government in 1989-90. She had to spend close to a month in the hospital as her head was split in that violence. She had suffered many such injuries to take on the mighty CPM as Youth Congress leader.

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And, her aggressive and fiery postures helped her party cadre to take on equally ruthless and repressive CPM government and seize power in West Bengal.

And, Suvendo Adhikari, the present BJP state unit president, who crossed over from the TMC, apparently wanted to use the same tactics to bring down his bête noir and the TMC government in the state.

He was close to success when he ensured her defeat in the Nandigram assembly constituency when Mamata came to challenge him in the previous assembly elections but also helped the party multiply its numerical strength in the state legislative assembly from a mere 3 to 77, though the party had aspired to win close to 200 of the 294. The TMC, on the other hand, swept the polls by winning a record 213.

Mamata may blame BJP workers for attacking the police and claim that the latter showed utmost restraint in not opening firing on violent BJP workers, but the visuals shown in some of the news channels expose how her police used brutal force by cane-charging, in which several senior BJP leaders also received injuries. It may be worth noting that some newspapers even came out with funny headlines like ‘after the violent incidents, protesters and police return to home.’ Whether they imply that it was a well-organized drama played out by the BJP and the Mamata police so brazenly, are not clear.

Many political observers feel that this is only a precursor of what lies in store, as the BJP is determined to retain the number of seats it had won in the last Lok Sabha elections.

It may be worth recalling that the BJP managed to win a record 19 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 polls stunning the ruling TMC.

Thus far, the BJP would like to keep up the momentum it could create on Tuesday, when thousands of BJP workers came out willingly to take on might Mamata police, knowing well they will not be spared. That apart, the Central agencies nailing the corrupt TMC leaders with images of thousands of crores of cash stashed by them, has put the ruling party in West Bengal in a tight spot. It is being speculated that some of them could even leave the party because of the bruised image it now has as a corrupt outfit. And, those who know Suvendo Adhikari well, look more than confident of the large-scale exodus from the ruling TMC to the BJP to the extent that it could destabilize the Mamata government. Though, the Adhikari group claims that the mid-term elections look imminent as in the days to come more than half of Mamata’s cabinet members may be booked and sent behind bars, this scenario looks a bit far-fetched at the moment. It may be only possible if the ongoing graft cases reach the doorstep of Mamata as well as her favored ‘nephew’.

Moreover, the growing uncertainty in West Bengal is bound to harm the Opposition unity efforts of not only other party leaders but also Mamata’s attempts to project herself as the only alternative leader to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.