Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Why BJP faces uphill task in "pro-communists" Bengal?

For Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its right wing politics of neo-nationalism, liberal economic policies and even pro-Hindutva religious slant, poll-bound West Bengal offers more than a Herculean challenge and jigsaw puzzle.

Even as the saffron party's electoral fortune surged ahead in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, slowly the party leaders are realising that at several quarters in the on-going assembly polls, more than the organisational weaknesses, the saffron party faces "basic ideological barriers".

Culturally and intellectually, Bengali voters are "essentially pro-Left", say those in the know of things. "The fact that Bengali voters and even other citizens in the state remained pro-Left ideologically, culturally and intellectually it  make things difficult for BJP in West Bengal unlike neighbouring Assam where the pro-Hindutva slant actually always had acceptance among upper caste Assamese voters," says one leader.

                               Tough for rightist party like BJP in largely Left-leaning Bengal

Thus the saffron party poll managers believe that while the party is near the striking distance in Assam, despite all efforts to woo the voters as against the non-performance of the Left and even Mamata Banerjee-headed Trinamool Congress, BJP finds the going tough in terms of winning over seats. In Assam, upper caste Hindus could relate to Brahminical appeal of the RSS and the BJP unlike in West Bengal where "ironically upper caste Bhadrolok" have been associated with the Marxist politics for decades now.

In fact, other than BJP leaders, even Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, a former associate of BJP and onetime convener of NDA, says, "Indian leftists cold not make much headway in northern states as they could not appeal to backward and lower caste groups. Thus these lesser privileged communities flocked to the socialists block".

In the Bengal context, even the state Governor K.N. Tripathi told a seminar in February this year in Kolkata that while higher educational institutions are becoming hubs of politics, "the role of the students organisations should be changed. It is to inform and to make the students aware through lawful means. This is a factor which needs to be taken care for the larger interest of the society". 

Many see Governor's remarks this as commentary on violence-oriented political culture in West Bengal -- which again largely draws inspiration from communists way of looking at things. Trinamool MP and former union Minister Sishir Adhikari has merits in his analysis: "Under Marxists misrule and when Singur and Nandigram happened, people of Bengal saw us as the genuine followers of communists ideology. That was the turning point of Bengal.
Being New Left: Advantage Mamata

This was when, he pointed out, Trinamool leaders started mocking CPI-M leaders as "pseudo followers" of Karl Marx.
Still lacking mass appeal
"This actually helped the Trinamool to get votes. Slowly people in Maoist-hit areas developed courage and faith in democracy," he said.Thus, when Mamata Banerjee played to the hilt her pro-farmers card against the failed industrialisation attempts of the Left, she appeared to the people as a more genuine political leader than the Marxists.

The result was Maoism almost came to end by 2011-12 especially after Maoist leader Mallojula Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji died," says Adhikari.

A section of Trinamool leaders also maintain that the Naxal movement had survived on a very weak footing in Bengal's Junglemahal region the then Left government did not allow “any political opposition".
"That was a dangerous trend for a democracy. As a result people’s faith in democracy eroded," said another leader.

This perhaps also made Leftists cadres task easier when enmasse they decided to opt for Didi and her party Trinamool Congress to abandon Marxism.

"Didi's (Mamata Banerjee's) image as a pro-poor leader with a rubber chappal and cotton sari actually challenged Leftits' image of 'sarba-hara (all for sacrifices). But today people know it well while Didi (Mamata) moves around in chappals, her party colleagues are no less than crorepatis (rich)," says BJP's Asansol MP and union minister Babul Supriyo.  

By its inherent contradictions both in economic and social contexts, BJP lacks the leftists slant. Thus though campaigning aggressively, the general apprehension inBengal BJP leaders and poll managers is they may not win many seats as such.

Higher vote share for BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls actually helped CPI(M) candidates in many constituencies.

For instance in Raiganj parliamentary seat, CPI(M) nominee Mohammed Salim defeated Deepa Dasmunshi of Congress by a margin of merely 1634  votes, where in BJP candidate Nimu Bhowmick had polled over 2 lakh votes.

Mamata's associate for long Sudip Bandyopadhyay, TMC floor leader in Lok Sabha, said once, "we understood from very beginning that the Left Front could not be defeated in Bengal from a rightist platform so despite best attempts personally from Atal Behari Vajpayee and strong opposition from the likes of Late Ajit Panja, Trinamool had to quitBJP-led NDA".

And the rest as they say is history or Didi's story.
And BJP is beginning to understand this !


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