Ebar Bangla? BJP needs to find its Singur moment

I have one little question for all the Bengalis out there. How did so many Bengali Hindus get to be in Tripura?

Oh, I know. They were pushed out of Bangladesh. But why? Didn’t all these escaping Bengali Hindus know that Bengalis never subscribe to the communal politics that supposedly comes from North India? How could these people not know even this much despite being Bengalis themselves?

Open any liberal newspaper or Troll or Liar, you will find out about the greatness of “Bengaliyat,” a composite culture that is so broad-minded and accepting of everyone that the Hindu/Muslim politics of “Hindiwallahs” from the North can never find a home in Bengal. That is the core pitch of Mamata Banerjee and her sponsors as she prepares to defend Bengal from the BJP. That Bengal has some kind of unique culture that is above religion!

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Bengal is GROUND ZERO for the politics of Hindu survival. Bengalis have paid some of the highest prices among Indians for Islamic aggression. Bengal is one of just two or three provinces of India that were sawed open and partly handed to Islamists. All this nonsense about Bengal being immune to communal politics is just compromised commentary from Mamata Banerjee’s footmats.

Yesterday, as the BJP swept Tripura, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee compared the BJP to cockroaches.

Nothing to rejoice, 2019 will be disaster: Mamata's jibe at BJP

Very well, Didi. Very well. I know that this is not language that befits a Chief Minister, but then you have always been a disgrace to the post of Chief Minister. I don’t give a damn about double standards of liberals who will complain about Modi’s jibe at Renuka but will say nothing when the 170 million Indians who voted for BJP are called cockroaches.

Because those liberals can go take a hike. The BJP does not need your outrage to counter Didi in Bengal. Now you watch while the “cockroaches” spread all over Mamata Banerjee’s home state. The politics of Bengal is raw and uncouth and no quarter is ever given nor asked for.

Anyone who remembers just how viciously Mamata Banerjee used to fight the CPIM would have been stunned at her performance yesterday. Those were the days when CPIM was so dominant in Bengal that people thought that Jyoti Basu even controlled the weather. At that time, people would regard Mamata with some surprise and some admiration for taking on the Communist regime, willing to scream the loudest, ready to put her body on the line and ready to take blows on the head from the Communist police. Despite repeated failures, they called her “Agnikanya” (a woman made of fire).

It was something to see the same Mamata Banerjee yesterday on Bengali channels, telling the media about how well the CPIM had done in Tripura. About how they had fallen short by just 5% of the vote and so on.

Guess we now know just how much Mamata Banerjee is scared of “cockroaches.”

Why is Mamata so terrified? Isn’t she entrenched well enough, with over 50% vote in most seats?

No, she isn’t. Because Mamata knows that she is just one Singur away from total collapse in Bengal.

Her politics of projecting the BJP as a party of “North Indians” has collapsed outright. In a week or two, the BJP will have a Bengali speaking Chief Minister in Tripura. The BJP already has a Chief Minister in Assam. There’s no way to paint them as “Hindi speaking North Indians.” Both of them probably share the passion of the average Bengali for rice and fish curry.

Her problem is somewhat unique to Bengal. The state has no caste vote banks. Which means that when a wave comes, there are no natural barriers to check its flow. Many youths in Bihar might have wanted to go with Modi, but ultimately many of the Yadav youth decided not to “betray” their supreme leader Lalu Yadav. This would *never* have happened in Bengal.

We saw a trailer of this in Tripura yesterday. A wave took the BJP from 1.5% to 43%. The Congress was reduced to 1.5% from 36%. Going by the textbook on Indian elections, even a “meltdown” of the Congress vote would still have given it 10-15% of the vote. That means the Congress would still have cut enough votes to deny BJP the victory. In fact, Rahul Gandhi was playing exactly for this. But those rules don’t apply when there are no caste vote banks. Votes can move en-bloc.

Mamata has the same problem. She is sitting on top of a pyramid of nearly 50% of the vote. But the entire opposition vote could see a sudden seismic shift to the BJP. Add to it some natural erosion due to anti-incumbency and the BJP could suddenly soar above 40%.

Mamata Banerjee. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

Ironically, this kind of setup is the legacy of the Communists themselves. How did the Commies keep Bengal (and Tripura) under their thumb for decades? By convincing people that ideology can be a substitute for a full stomach. I personally know several people who voted for the CPM in 2001 elections because “America is pouring money to defeat Jyoti Basu.”

And then, under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPM was suddenly seen as a party that was willing to compromise with the industrialists. With Tata. Again, ironically, the CPM paid a bitter price for their one and only effort to do something good for the state they had ruled. Mamata was taking a stance against “evil capitalists.” So they got in Mamata and threw Buddhadeb out. For decades, the people of Bengal had grown up to value ideological purity above practical welfare. It came to bite the CPM hard in its behind.

Mamata is facing the same risk today. The people of Bengal have definitely noted her softening towards the CPM, even her friendliness. Believe me, this will lead to disgust.

One of the least analysed events in Indian politics is the divergence between poll results in Bihar (2015) and Bengal (2016). Two neighbouring states, with elections held barely six months from each other. Both had a Mahagathbandhan with an arithmetic advantage.

RJD + JDU >BJP  and CPM+Cong > TMC

But while the Bihar Mahagathbandhan won big, the CPM+Cong Mahagathbandhan in Bengal performed miserably.

Because the moment the CPM was seen as compromising on its ideological purity by aligning with Congress, it lost all respect from the electorate. CPM workers in every gully and mohalla of Bengal were greeted with taunts of

Je Congress er biruddhe etodin lorte, sheshe sei Congress er paayer choti mathaye kore vote chaite eshecho?

(You used to fight Congress all these years. Today you have taken the chappals from Congress feet and put it on your head? How dare you show your face?)

This can be the fate of TMC workers tomorrow if the BJP tries hard enough. For that, it must earn the respect of Bengali electorate by showing its own ideological purity, which would take the form of an uncompromising hard Hindutva position.

It is time for BJP to go to every corner of Bengal and spread the message of Didi going soft on the Communists. This will unnerve the TMC and force them to make a Singur like mistake.

Ebar Bangla!

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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