Bengal politics: Mamata fighting the toughest battle

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The election of 2019 threw up several dramatic outcomes — the decimation of the mahaghathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the total failure of the Congress in the three states it had won barely six months earlier and, of course, the defeat of Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. The West Bengal outcome was a big setback to Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee. Having positioned herself as a player in national politics before the election, Banerjee found herself on the backfoot in her home turf. The bitterly contested Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal have been ravaged by violence. It is no surprise — violence runs in the veins of Bengal’s politics. The TMC and the BJP have been involved in violent skirmishes since the Lok Sabha polls. The most vitriolic exchanges this election season have perhaps been between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee. The BJP’s performance in West Bengal was particularly remarkable where it secured 40% of the vote share and 18 seats out of 42. Violence continued unabated and at least 15 people have lost their lives so far n post-poll clashes. The stand-off intensified on Wednesday afternoon, with clashes breaking out between workers of the saffron party and the police in the heart of Kolkata.  The BJP was holding a march to protest the killing of its workers, allegedly by TMC workers, and alleged breakdown of law and order in the state.

It has been eight years since Mamata’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) brought the Left Front government’s 34 years of uninterrupted rule to a dramatic end. Now, there is no denying there is a new rising star in West Bengal — BJP. Post-2014, the BJP has been fast expanding its base in the state. With the CPM and the Congress nearing terminal decline, their cadres and leaders started exploring new pastures. This, no doubt, helped the BJP slowly and steadily to expand its base. In the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP also capitalized on the anti-Trinamool Congress (TMC) sentiment and the general decline of the Left in the state. From some of the developments, which took place recently,  it is now amply clear that pulling down of Mamata government has topped the agenda of BJP and as well as its president Amit Shah, whose ire against Mamata is more of personal nature than political. One could remember that Shah had vowed to finish the TMC.

BJP is in a do or die mode in Bengal to unseat the incumbent chief minister. Mamata is fighting possibly the toughest battle of her political career. The danger to her rule from the BJP is real and present.  While dashing her national ambitions, West Bengal hasn’t entirely repudiated Banerjee as yet. However, it has put her on notice. The future will depend on how she conducts herself in the coming months.

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