Mamata Banerjee in a tizzy as BJP rises in West Bengal

Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in an utter panic. The two recent developments have proved so. One, in a sudden rush, her party allegedly forcibly inducted the Naxalbari tribal couple, who had hosted BJP president Amit Shah during his visit to the area. Two, Banerjee has threatened to send one lakh BJP members to jail if CBI arrests any of his leaders accused in Narada Sting.

The Naxalbari tribal couple – Geeta and Raju Mahali – who went missing on 2 May, emerged the next day sitting beside West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb and local TMC leaders outside their home in the presence of a huge police force. Deb announced that the tribal couple were joining the TMC as per their “own volition”.

“Mahalis have willingly joined the TMC. There was no pressure on them. They have decided to join the party after being convinced with Mamata Banerjee’s ‘immense developmental’ work in the state.” Deb said.

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The Naxalbari tribal couple was seen crying as they accepted TMC membership at a local party office later. “I like Trinamool Congress and have therefore joined the party,” Geeta read out a one-line statement. The couple accepted a Trinamool flag from Deb.

These reports led people to conclude that the Naxalbari tribal couple were living under fear after hosting Amit Shah on 26 April. They were allegedly abducted and then made to join the Trinamool Congress under the duress. BJP’s Naxalbari block president Dilip Barui had lodged a complaint at the Naxalbari police station stating that the couple were kidnapped.

“It looks like they had to join Trinamool under duress. Else, why would Geeta read out a written statement at the Trinamool party office? But we can’t say anything unless the couple speaks up,” one of Mahalis’ neighbours was quoted as saying in this report.

The incident has triggered sharp reactions from the BJP. “The kidnapping of the Mahali family and forcing them to join the TMC only shows that the TMC is afraid about the growth of BJP and that is why they are behaving in such a way. Such kind of heinous act is a reflection of a dirty, vindictive mentality, which TMC represents,” West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.

In Delhi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called the incident a “textbook case of revenge politics” as he lashed out at the TMC for carrying out such “tactics of intimidation”.

“Why should a tribal family be under such pressure? We condemn it outright. The BJP cannot be stopped like this,” Prasad told reporters in the national capital.

The BJP on 4 May organised massive protest rallies in Kolkata, Naxalbari, Siliguri, north and south 24 Parganas on this issue.  A party delegation has met West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and presented the issue as an “affront on a tribal woman”.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb, however, rubbished the BJP’s charges saying that the tribal couple have joined the TMC because “they believe in secularism.”

It is not just the tribals in Naxalbari, there is fear lurking among the residents of Bhawanipore, the Assembly constituency of the TMC chief, and Gourangapur in Kolkata suburb those who hosted the BJP national president during his visit to the state last month. This report suggests that local Trinamool leaders are trying to figure out which local BJP supporters brought and hosted Shah.

The reason that prompted the Trinamool Congress to bay for BJP’s blood is Amit Shah launching the BJP expansion plan from Naxalbari, his huge rally in Bhowanipore and his new clarion call ‘Ebar Bangla’ (Now Bengal). Moreover, Shah started his 110-day-long whirlwind tour across the nation from West Bengal and the state is on special focus in BJP’s scheme of things.

It appears that the aggressive plans of BJP is making Mamata Banerjee feel insecured and threatened by the saffron surge. Speaking at a public meeting in Malda, Banerjee said, “Pick one Trinamool Congress leader in Narada case, at least on lakh BJP members will land in jail. I have cases ready for them.”

The sting operation carried out by a local news channel shows 12 Trinamool Congress leaders – including some Ministers – accepting wads of notes in exchange for political favours. The Calcutta High Court had ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct an inquiry. The CBI has filed FIRs against the accused. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also booked the accused.

After the Saradha chit fund scam, Narada sting has pushed the Mamata-led government and the party into a further corner. Both the scams have large scale implications on Bengal politics. With BJP deciding to raise this issues, the Bengal politics is now heating up.

Political writer, policy observer.

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