“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”
– Benjamin Franklin
A highly intriguing political face-off between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal is on the cards. Three statements and two recent visits by Union ministers to Kolkata, slamming the Bengal government for its less than stellar administrative record, provided evidence that the BJP leaders felt they have had enough of TMC’s tantrums. With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections approaching, TMC can no longer count on Mamata Banerjee’s self-proclaimed ‘personal equation’ with Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj or Arun Jaitley to stop BJP hardliners from gunning for her. In the recently concluded panchayat election, the BJP claims that 52 of its cadres were murdered, while the TMC alleges that 14 of its members lost their lives. To comprehend the reasons for such a widespread role of violence in Bengal’s rural areas, one has to understand the complete absence of intermediary social organisations in the state’s rural life. The row over National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam continues to rock Kolkata, with Trinamool Congress taking out protest rallies. While TMC observed ‘Black Day’ in the city and its suburbs to protest the detention of party leaders at Silchar airport, Left Front accused BJP of polarising people on the issue. No one has forgotten how Mamata Banerjee, then a member of Lok Sabha, had protested against illegal immigration in Parliament in 2005. What she had said at that time can be found in the records. The NRC implementation process has been going on for some time now. What had she done to address this issue before? Now she has become sentimental about the issue and is indulging in politics.TMC is now hoping that it could extract benefit by polarising the NRC-left out issue.
With BJP trying to leave the Communist Party of India-Marxism (CPI-M) and Congress in its dust and emerge as the main rival to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), several new political narratives are being put forth before voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. By nature, people are swayed by politics in West Bengal and these days politics is getting more vitriolic. One can comprehend that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar brand of politics is emerging in West Bengal with both the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP launching a hate campaign against each other. After firing the opening salvo against TMC by exposing its poor governance, BJP also upped the ante on the political front as well. It launched its political campaign as Prime Minister Narendra Modi tore into TMC’s record of corruption and inefficiency in a hard–hitting speech at Midnapore on July 15.
Since the 2011 assembly election, which saw the Trinamool Congress winning office after three decades of Left rule, the political ground in the state has shifted. The CPM and the Congress seem to be in near terminal decline, resulting in cadres and leaders exploring new pastures. Post-2014, the BJP has been fast expanding its base in the state. The incessant violence in the state is unlikely to help TMC, rather it will help BJP in its endeavour to make a solid presence in that state. If the TMC chief is not able to rein in her cadres, it may jeopardize her dream of retaining Bengal and making significant impact in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.