The deliberately engendered mistrust, even the so-called lack of ‘identity politics’ bragged about by Bengali Communists, has been pushed aside. A growing number of Hindus in West Bengal are now in fear of being ignored by the state and see Narendra Modi as a saviour.
This is a political obituary written a few days in advance. But should its import come to pass, it will have considerable effect on the future politics of India. It will remove an eclipsed politician from centre-stage in Kolkata. And it will cast her party, the AITMC, more usually called the TMC, into the outer darkness. But beyond the impending defeat, it will put paid to some long-established political formulae.
It is bad enough that the minority vote has been turned into a battering ram. Then there is the creeping illegal immigration that has run into crores of people melted into the Indian populace. Illegals, who are not grateful for a new lease on life and dignity, but who foment violence and Islamic terrorism. Illegals, given state government abetted makeovers and concocted identity papers.
In J&K, rescued from the brink by the Narendra Modi government, there is an ongoing effort to broaden the voter base by enfranchising those who are native Kashmiris, but were left out by the previous dispensation. There is a new census and preparation of voter lists underway. In Ladakh, both Buddhist and Shia are already blossoming without the domination of Srinagar, or indeed Jammu.
It is telling how, out of the five rioting people shot dead by the CISF in Cooch Behar recently, four were claimed by Mamata Banerjee to be “Muslim Rajbanshis”. How this oxymoronic feat has been pulled off in a Hindu caste is hard to understand. Matuas, the other Hindu caste prominent in the upcoming phases of the West Bengal elections are also Hindu. How many Matuas has Mamata Banerjee managed to turn into a minority?
This time, the West Bengal Assembly elections have not only seen unprecedented defections from the TMC to the BJP, but also the support of the lower castes and the Communists. The Communists are saying if backing Modi gets rid of Didi, so be it. Mamata Banerjee, realising she needs more than just the existing minority vote, at almost 30%, is battling to gain lower caste votes too. They will determine the outcome of over a 100 seats in the coming phases of the election.
Meanwhile her high profile, reputedly rain-making election consultant Prashant Kishor, has washed his hands of the affair. He has blamed her squarely for excessive minority appeasement. The phases so far have apparently gone against the TMC. Kishor avers Narendra Modi enjoys tremendous popularity in West Bengal. This includes most of the women voters.
If there is a BJP sweep, nothing can be done for the TMC. If however, the election is close, who will come to Banerjee’s rescue besides the Congress?
But as of now, the traditional schisms, cynically provoked to suit, between Tribals, Adivasis, Dalits, Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the upper castes, has also begun to heal. BJP won most of the Scheduled Caste and reserved seats for the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal in 2019. Can TMC reverse the tide?
The deliberately engendered mistrust, even the so-called lack of “identity politics” bragged about by Bengali Communists, has been pushed aside. A growing number of Hindus in West Bengal are now in fear of being ignored by the state and see Narendra Modi as a saviour.
Protectors of sectional belligerence such as the Congress Party are almost wiped out. Without electoral success, there has been a shift in focus towards disruption and violence. There is rioting, arson, demonstrations, lawlessness, murders, terrorism, sharia excesses, and offensive rants against Hindus across the board. Even Maoist threats form only a subset to such excess. As does Khalistani separatism.
There is, despite severe economic dislocation occasioned by the Covid pandemic, a determination to push back. The unabashedly unapologetic NDA government in the Centre and in the states is refreshing for not being financially corrupt. It is also staunchly nationalist. It is working on infrastructure, welfare, and defence preparedness at a frenetic pace. The voting public is pleased.
But what does an opposition party do henceforth, when the perceptually authentic majoritarian party is ensconced very comfortably in power?
The Prime Minister observes all major Hindu festivals and rituals, visiting most revered temples, in country and abroad. Once there, he does not just pose for photos. He prays as an unabashed and practicing Hindu. Narendra Modi performed all the dawn rituals and inaugurated the rebuilding of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya that had been blocked for over a century. That spectacle, broadcast nationally and internationally, has restored pride in many hearts.
For the first time there is a seriousness about pursuing the case for extracting the Aurangzeb-era Gyan Vapi Mosque from the revered Kashi Vishwanath temple complex at Varanasi. Ditto for the Shahi Edgah Masjid nestling at the Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura.
The dramatic progress made on the renovations and clearance of encroachments leading to the ghats from the Kashi Viswanath temple complex is also a matter of immense Hindu pride. Many ancient if small temples have emerged from under the encroachments. A 50 feet wide corridor to the ghats, along with a number of new public buildings for visitors and pilgrims is nearly done. Reinforcements, embankments, repairs to the ancient ghats, rooftop Ganga-view galleries, are ongoing.
The Faustian pact of Nehruvian secularism has run its course. Initially, for the Nehru and Indira Gandhi decades, it resulted in majority governments, with all opposition reduced to the margins. This was not just because of the minorities. In addition, the lower castes voted for the Congress Party, run by upper caste men and women. This changed in the late Sixties and Seventies with the Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan movements. After that, the lower castes developed their own leaders and a significant number of regional parties joined the fray. This, of course, fragmented the monolithic vote. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, there was one last Congress government with an absolute majority. After that, there were only coalitions.
This changed after 30 years with the coming of Narendra Modi to the Centre with a majority in 2014.
Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress is a one-woman supremo. She has clawed her way to power in the face of Communist intimidation for two absolute majority terms. But her career is also illustrative of how the broader polity has progressed. She too was originally part of the Congress Party. She was a Union Minister in P.V. Narasimha Rao’s government, and again in the A.B. Vajpayee administration after she broke away from Congress.
Back in West Bengal, she ousted the Communists by an opportunistic anti-industrialisation agitation. It was an outdoing of the Communists at their own game. But she never recovered her economic credibility, and West Bengal as an investment destination has languished. There are no jobs, only doles, if that. Mamata Banerjee’s national ambitions will also turn to dust after she loses her power base to the BJP. Besides, she has no political successors to speak of. So, if the TMC loses decisively on 2 May, it is the last bastion fallen.