After suffering severe drubbing in the Lok sabha election at the hands of the BJP, the TMC supremo and CM Mamata Banerjee is desperate to check the BJP at any cost. That is why for first time, Mamata Banerjee has openly asked for the help of her arch rivals the CPM and the Congress to defeat the BJP in West Bengal. But both parties have rejected her offer and said that only the TMC is responsible for rise of the saffron party in the state.
Earlier, on several occasions she had laid stress on an alliance with these parties at the national level but for the first time, she is ready to join hands with the CPM and the Congress at home. In the Assembly Mamata Banerjee said, “I have apprehensions that the BJP would change the Constitution of India. I think all of us, including the Left and Congress, should join hands to combat the BJP.”
TMC, CPM and Congress have no other options left
It is remarkable that the BJP won 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state and bagged 40.5 per cent vote share, a record jump of 23 per cent from the last general elections. In 2014 the BJP had won only two seats. Although the TMC managed to increase its vote share by four per cent, its seats came down to 22 from 34 in last general elections. The CPM, Congress and TMC had been together at the national level. Therefore, there is possibility that they may join hands in the state. At the same time, they have no other options left. West Bengal Assembly elections in West Bengal are due in 2021. Buoyed by major gains in the Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, the BJP leadership is aiming for more than two-third majority in the assembly elections due in 2021 and also for early polls in the state.
CPM politburo member Hannan Mollah said, “We don’t need lessons from Mamata Banerjee on ways to fight the BJP. It is due to her policies that the BJP has gained ground in Bengal. She should first accept that it is due to her fault that the BJP has made inroads in Bengal.” Mollah said, “Before thinking anything on this line (on Mamata Banerjee’s call for joining hands), I think we need to strengthen our own party. She is a selfish leader. Did she speak to any Opposition leader ever in Bengal? She is doing this because she is helpless right now. We will wait and watch before making any commitment.”
Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra, said, “We are not here to run after her statements and suggestions. Her statement in the Assembly has no meaning. She said this out of her own interest. Before the Lok Sabha election, she made a statement that we are with the RSS. Later, she said that we have become a ‘sign board’ (lost relevance) in Bengal. Now, why does she want to join hands with the ‘sign board? She should speak clearly what exactly she means with her statement.”
Post-poll violence in West Bengal
After the Lok Sabha elections, violence erupted in West Bengal. Violence has been an integral part of Bengal politics. The TMC and the BJP workers clashed with each other. It must be noted that the political situation in West Bengal is so volatile that even a road-side quarrel between the BJP and TMC is capable to leading to lethal violence now. Recently, five people were killed over an argument about party flags in Sandeshkhali, around 70 km from Kolkata.
Most of the post-poll violence in Bengal has taken place in the North 24 Parganas district for two reasons. First, the district shares a border with Bangladesh and lends itself to Hindu-Muslim tension, with post-election communal polarisation playing the role of catalyst. In 2017, Basirhat city in the district had seen communal clashes. The second reason is Arjun Singh, the former TMC strong man who contested the Lok Sabha election on a BJP ticket and won the Barrackpore seat. Arjun Singh was the MLA from Bhatpara. For over two decades, he has been a key asset of the TMC. He held sway over the whole of the Barrackpore constituency because of his booth-level organisational skills and the support he had from the state’s Hindi speakers.
At present, the BJP’s cadres are a mishmash of former TMC, CPM and Congress workers. The recent election has shown that the BJP is as adept at using violence as the TMC or CPM. In such a situation, the strong emergence of the BJP has meant the addition of a new and volatile element into the mix polarisation.
Days after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, hundreds of councillors, also known corporators, from various municipalities, joined the BJP. About five TMC MLAs and one CPI(M) MLA also joined the BJP. They had perhaps sensed that the wind is now blowing away from Mamata. The BJP now claims that it has a majority in the municipalities of Nahihati, Bhatpara, Kachrapada, Bijpur, Bongaon and Darjeeling.
BJP takes control of the South Dinajpur Zilla Parishad in Bengal
According to reports, the BJP finally took control of the South Dinajpur Zilla Parishad in West Bengal from the TMC, after majority of its members, besides an MLA, switched sides. It is first time in the state. Veteran leader Biplab Mitra also joined the BJP. Biplab Mitra who was considered to be one of the architects of the Trinamool Congress in the district in north Bengal, was shunted out as the party’s district president after the Lok Sabha polls. Besides Biplab Mitra and 10 of the 18 members of South Dinajpur Zilla Parishad, TMC MLA Wilson Champramary joined the BJP in Delhi. Biplab Mitra said, “The TMC has become a party of arrogant autocratic leaders. I had built the party in the district from scratch from 1998 but I was made to feel like an outsider in the party. My hard work of so many years was not respected.”