Delivering elections earns TMC lumpens right to play bully for five years.

 

With each phase of polling, there has been a marked step-up in violence in West Bengal. This should not have surprised anyone, not least the Election Commission, which by way of abundant precaution did, however, schedule polling in all seven phases in a state long notorious for political violence. Yet, the EC can be faulted for trusting in Mamata Banerjee’s good sense. There was no way she was going to rein in her goons, having vowed publicly to deny the BJP even a single seat in the state. In the last election BJP had two. She let loose her lumpens to run amok. When the Chief Minister herself went about threatening the poll personnel of reprisals “once the elections are over and the Central forces have gone back”, it could only be signal for her troops to go and break heads of anyone remotely disinclined to vote for the Trinamool Congress.

The dress rehearsal for the on-going farce was conducted last year when the panchayat elections were held in the state. The Communists, the Congress and BJP were badly mauled, though even in these elections the BJP emerged ahead of the other two also-rans. There was widespread violence even then. Reportedly, 50 people were killed when the ruling party thugs laid seize to polling booths, preventing anyone else to come near. Those who resisted were beaten up with the police looking on passively.

In a way, violence has run through the veins of Bengal politics for long. Remember the state birthed the anarchist Naxal movement. It was soon followed by Marxists, its estranged cousins, who for over three decades ran a close system of well-knit violent networks, extorting protection money from the poor and the factory-owner alike, while corralling voters for the party at election time. Without the patronage of the leadership the cadres could not have held ordinary Bengalis to ransom for this long. Jyoti Basu was the goody-goody face, while the dirty work was handled by the hard-core apparatchiks who put down discordant voices with an iron fist, aided and abetted by the police, which was fully compromised.

Mamata exploited the over three-decade long anti-incumbency, while Singur served as the proverbial last straw under which the Marxist façade crumbled. But soon it was clear that she did not represent change. It was continuation of the same, albeit under a new label. It could not have been otherwise because she too embraced the army of goons and criminals who had earlier served as the linchpin of the support structure of the Marxist regime. Indeed, if Jyoti Babu had Chandan Basu to spice up the political bazaar with tittle-tattle of the monetary kind, Mamata in her dear nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, has Chandan’s worthy successor, who openly holds court and offers grist to the gossip mills about his overnight riches.

To come back to the Lok Sabha poll, if the EC was guilty of underestimating the potential for mischief by the ruling party in Bengal, Trinamool was wrong in underestimating the depth of popular anger and disenchantment running against it. The BJP effort to set up shop in Bengal would not have succeeded were it not for the grassroots support. People who had pinned their hopes on Mamata now felt cheated. The daily harassment at the hands of the local Trinamool dadas, lack of improvement in the delivery of welfare services and public goods, continuing economic stagnation and, above all, the clear and present threat of an unending flow of infiltrators distorting a settled demography were bound to provide the BJP opportunity to occupy the opposition space vacated by the Communists and the Congress. You have to grant it to the Modi-Shah duo that its prescient moves in Bengal seem to be bearing fruit. The more Trinamool relies on the infiltrators and illegals, the more the latter bully the locals in border districts in everyday life, the more hospitable Bengal will become to the Sangh Parivar. The evolving Bengal binary would leave little space for the Marxists and the sorry remnants of the Congress Party now reduced to marginal influence in fewer than two full districts.

What of the ongoing election? Well, vitiated as it is by rampant rigging and booth-capturing, there is little the EC or, for that matter, the Supreme Court can do to right the wrong. Whatever the number of seats she manages to win in the fraudulent manner, the blot of large-scale rigging will stick upfront on her forehead. It is a vote of no-confidence in the state administration when security forces have to be flown in their tens of thousands to police a mere poll. And even then the ruling party thugs manage to hijack the election, especially in semi-urban and rural constituencies.

Of course, it is such a shame for our democracy that in spite of there being an overwhelming audio and visual evidence establishing the culpability of the Trinamool goons, who rained stones and missiles on the road-show of Amit Shah on Tuesday evening from the roof of a college building, thus triggering the riot, the Opposition parties in unison hold the EC guilty with the sole objective of currying favour with Mamata Banerjee with an eye on the post-poll scenario.

Even before the votes in the last phase are polled, the braggadocio of Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav et al has deserted them, yielding to a sense of reality, which tells them that stopping Modi might require supping with those whom they had called unprintable names only a few hours earlier. Yet, the Modi juggernaut might still roll by, leaving them all stranded, and staring at hard times ahead since in his second innings he is set to take investigations into corruption scams to their logical conclusion. And time, too.

UNRAVEL CONSPIRACY AGAINST CJI

The complainant against the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has denied she was part of any conspiracy. She cannot be taken on her word, of course. With an eye on the Rafale and Rahul Gandhi contempt matters, a conspiracy to blackmail the CJI cannot be ruled out. Otherwise, it was too much of a coincidence that it took three affidavits for Rahul to apologise for ascribing to the court what it had definitely not said. Again, in spite of the court listing both matters together how the Rahul contempt case was not listed would indicate something fishy. Whether the lawyer widely known for being a complete family man as also a model taxpayer was part of the conspiracy we have no clue, but a couple of activist lawyers with partisan agendas are said to have played a questionable role.

If not the Supreme Court, the new government should get at the root of the conspiracy and duly name and shame the culprits for the sake of institutional integrity. CJI Gogoi, to his credit, did not submit to the intended blackmail.

 

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