The upcoming West Bengal State Assembly elections have to be the most awaited elections in the last 5 years. Yes, even more thrilling than the 2019 General Elections.
The Saffron Wave has been on a winning streak, and West Bengal could either break or make the momentum which the BJP has been maintaining for a while now.
West Bengal elections, to me, seem like a reality show keeping us on the edge of our sofas: the politicians are contestants giving a hard fight to win the show but there is still no clear indication as to who will win and we, the spectators, cannot help but bite our nails in anticipation, as the result could go either way. West Bengal is that one state where nobody can express any surety as to which party will win or form the government.
While there is growing resentment against Mamata’s misrule, with rise of anti-Hindu sentiments, corruption, political violence, failing economy, etc, Bengalis also do not wish to choose the BJP as they believe its conservative ‘Hindu-Nationalist’ ideology will destroy the liberal fabric of their state.
As an “outsider” (as Mamata Banerjee would categorize me) I feel that a state like West Bengal needs a party like the BJP. No matter the clash between the former’s “liberal” values and the latter’s “conservative” ones. At the end of the day, the CM will be a Bengali and will be sensitive to their culture irrespective of the political entity they belong to.
Why I think the BJP is needed in the state has nothing to do with my general support for the party. It has everything to do with my dislike for TMC and what it has done to a glorious state.
The “Outsider v. Bengali” rhetoric has furthered the gap between Bengalis and others. When Mamata unleashed her goons upon BJP’s star campaigners in late 2020, she constantly impressed upon the people their Bengali identity, and reminded them that those who had come to woo them with promises were, at the end of the day, outsiders. Since, I have personally interacted with many Bengalis, each with a different belief, I know that most of them take pride in their Indian identity. But I also know a few, who went out of their way to tell me that they were Bengalis first, Indians later. While I don’t see the harm in being deeply attached to one’s culture, language, state, I do feel that placing everything above one’s national identity is not right.
Mamata has continued to play with these sentiments and ensured that Bengalis do not feel attached to the land.
The one-sided secularism practiced by Mamata Banerjee’s government has given rise to anti-Hindu sentiments. TMC leaders have not shied away from threatening people by telling them that saying, “Jai Shri Ram!” will get them kicked out of the state. Another leader from the party made derogatory remarks against Shri Ram by bringing in Sita Maa and the Hathras rape case. Devotees celebrating the Bhoomi Pujan on 5th August 2020 were arrested for waving saffron flags. That Mamata has a soft spot for the State’s Muslim minority is a well-known fact. But in the recent past, her party has openly extended support to those who harass Hindus, burn their homes, kidnap their daughters, and force them to leave their villages. She is secular but only when it comes to one faith.
The influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh has made life difficult for the actual citizens in the state. To expand their vote-bank, TMC has refused to act upon the illegal-immigrants crisis plaguing the state. Since the refugees belong to a community that is bound to vote for Mamata Banerjee and her “secular” credentials, she allows these refugees to come in, live in pathetic settlements and oust the original residents. The refugees, in turn, vote for her after she distributes a pot of Biryani in their slums (told me by a friend living in Kolkata); never mind the fact that their slums don’t have clean water, toilets, sewage system, enough rooms- never mind the fact that there never will be. These immigrants never really become Indian citizens. But they reap all the benefits of being one and grab the few resources meant for poorer Bengali Indians.
The democratic system has crumbled under TMC rule. BJP’s sitting MLA got killed last year and his body was hung in the marketplace for all to see, as a threat. Many Karyakartas of the party have been brutally murdered time and again. Each time BJP sends a leader to campaign, there are attacks on them- even prominent leaders such as Tejasvi Surya are not spared. TMC uses every tactic to intimidate them- tear gases, small bombs, guns. The police are complicit in this savagery, and children as young as ten are seen pelting stones. It is sad that a state like West Bengal, known for its open, intellectual, and liberal culture, has today lost sight of the democratic ideals so many Bengali leaders fought for in the pre-independence era.
Mahua Moitra of the TMC roars in the Lok Sabha and is praised for raising her voice against the “tyranny of fascist BJP”, yet is mum when her own party shamelessly uses brute force in the streets of West Bengal. I have heard countless stories of TMC goons threatening and blackmailing people right before elections (when their Biryani and alcohol distribution drives fail).
West Bengal’s economy, FDI, industries, etc. need SERIOUS help. The Left Rule of almost four decades practically killed all the industries. They destroyed the glory of their jute mills. Labor unrest and Naxalite movements were common. Agriculture was wrecked. So many opportunities were let go off. Investors pulled out of the state. Even Amartya Sen criticized their handling of the economy, stating that once upon a time, there were 18 flights from Kolkata to London due to the large number of businesses operating out of the state. Mamata Banerjee added salt to this sauce by stepping into the shoes of the communists- no new industries have come up, the agricultural sector still suffers, Bengali farmers do not receive benefits of Central schemes, industrialists like Tata were driven out. This has led to the fairly talented and intelligent youth of the state leaving and seeking opportunities elsewhere.
I can go on and on about everything that is wrong with the present state government of West Bengal. But my article was not really about attacking TMC, as much as it was about highlighting key areas where BJP can and will work. I understand that Bengalis fear becoming a part of the Hindi speaking belt and therefore, losing the significance accorded to their language. I am aware that they feel a conservative party is a threat to their liberal culture. I also get the fact that the no government has been kind to West Bengal, but the fact they all have the same ideologies makes TMC/Left a safer option than gambling with their polar opposite- BJP.
But for everyone in West Bengal who believes that their state and the BJP are incompatible: it was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a proud Bengali and an even prouder Indian, who founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh because it allowed him to freely express his Nationalism. It was a Bengali who gave us what we call the Bharatiya Janata Party today. There is no way the two can ever be incompatible.