Let me give you an example of ‘democracy’ in Bengal. Haldia is a small (river) port town in Bengal, not far from Kolkata. A fairly significant town in Bengal, actually. In the 2016 assembly elections, at the peak of the TMC wave which won them a startling 211 out of 294 seats, the TMC lost to the Assembly seat in Haldia.
That gives you an idea that Haldia would have a very significant number of anti-Mamata votes.
How many? A little more than a year later, the WB State Election Commission conducted municipal polls in Haldia.
The TMC had a vote share of 85% and won 100% of the seats. This from a seat they could not win even in the 2016 wave.
This is ‘democracy’, West Bengal style.
We all saw what happened during Panchayat Elections. Ballot boxes burning. Ballot boxes thrown into lakes and village ponds. This gentleman in this viral video is exercising his franchise, several hundred times over, in favour of the ruling TMC.
Or see this, a scene from a counting centre in Nadia.
This gentleman here was perhaps a little late in exercising his franchise. So he arrived at the counting centre while counting was already in progress, started marking ballots he had brought with him and handing them over to those doing the counting.
This is Bengal. Appearances do not matter here.
This should soothe the nerves of any BJP supporter who worries about the optics of Mamata Banerjee’s showdown with the Modi government yesterday and the whole thing about “sympathy”.
I don’t know if Bengal has any such thing left as a sympathy vote. As a state, we have moved far beyond that point. Any expectation of fairness in the political system, of niceties, delicacies, etc., stopped existing a long time back. Governance in Bengal has become an exercise in raw power. It happened so long ago that Bengalis do not know of any other way.
So, stop worrying about the actual outcome of the Sharadha case, how it fares in courts and how will it affect national politics.
What people in Bengal see is that Modi has thrown the gauntlet before Mamata Banerjee and is taking her on in a high stakes showdown.
Will Modi gain? Of course, he will. Remember that BJP has no downside in Bengal anyway. They have absolutely nothing to lose. From here, they can only rise.
In fact, this showdown could actually turn out to be the moment that brings the deluge of votes for BJP in Bengal. BJP needed to show the gumption, the fighting spirit to take on Mamata Banerjee and Mamata’s theatrics has only proven that BJP has been successful in rattling her.
She pushed them. She pushed them in every unseemly, illegal and unconstitutional manner possible. She banned the BJP’s rath yatra in December. She didn’t allow Amit Shah’s helicopter to land. Only yesterday, she denied permission to Yogi Adityanath, the democratically elected CM of a major Indian state, to enter Bengal.
And now, she’s arrested the CBI. She’s ripping the Constitution to shreds. Sadly, the voters of Bengal have become conditioned to see shows of raw power as legitimate, as the default. It actually proves her credentials as a “leader”. Well, today the people of Bengal are seeing that Modi has “leadership credentials” too.
Here is another glimpse of what Mamata Banerjee has been getting away with:
Can you imagine another Chief Minister saying this? This is the default in Bengal, unfortunately.
In the last four years, as the CPIM and Congress became comatose in Bengal, the BJP was definitely winning some hearts by showing actual fighting spirit against Mamata’s all-powerful TMC. But the party needed something big to mark their foothold gain in the state and the recent events have given them that. The people of Bengal are now witnessing that there is someone big enough to make didi insecure.
Since yesterday, the BJP is in a win-win situation. They have proved their worth to the people of Bengal.
And to everyone outside Bengal, they are showing Mamata Banerjee at her unstable worst. Reminding everyone why a khichdi Sarkar would be a disaster for the country.
And as a bonus, they have managed to displace Rahul Gandhi completely from the news space, making him look totally out of the race. First, the Gandhis brought it upon themselves by yielding space to Priyanka at the exact moment Rahul was finally getting traction. Now, Modi vs Mamata is the talk of the town.
I said a few days ago that the Modi vs Rahul thing is the stuff of 2014. Rahul has been losing to Modi for four years now. Rahul is now beginning to get sympathy. You can’t run the 2014 race again in 2019. I said PM Modi needs a new opponent, a contest that he would win hands down. And the unstable Bengal Chief Minister is giving him exactly that.
It’s not like Mamata doesn’t understand this. She is doing the right thing from her point of view. She wants just as much to dismiss Rahul and be seen as the principal opponent to Modi.
This showdown is fantastic news for BJP in Bengal. But it is also Mamata’s only shot at becoming PM. She needs the Congress to be decimated and discredited so that she becomes the most prominent anti-Modi regional leader. So what if this showdown adds 10 seats to BJP in Bengal? With 30 seats, she would have the largest regional party in the Lok Sabha and could ask for the PM post.
The BJP, for its part, thinks that the threshold of 10 seats has long been crossed. Indeed, something is happening in Bengal that Mamata is not liking at all. The PM’s rallies on Saturday showed the kind of outpouring of enthusiasm that is reminiscent of 2014 in Uttar Pradesh.
PM Modi in Odisha. Then, Amit Shah in Bengal. Then, PM Modi in Bengal as Amit Shah in Odisha. Yogi Adityanath coming to Bengal to do more rallies this week. He addressed a rally by phone yesterday when they denied him permission to come over.
In all probability, BJP’s central leadership senses it too. PM Modi had stated in the Durgapur rally, “Didi, if you have done no wrong, why fearing the CBI?” Mamata, with her theatrics since yesterday, has only proved the PM right.
Every hour that the showdown continues in Bengal, the BJP gets more votes. I already said don’t worry so much about how courts see the matter. People of the state are beyond such niceties.
This hardening of the Bengali heart, where did it come from? How did we learn to treat fascism as an everyday reality? Where does Mamata get her fascism from?
I can say without a shade of doubt that it comes from the CPIM. Communism is a horrible thing. Once you get injected with this poison, it takes several decades to work itself out of your system.
This is how the Communists ruled. As a young leader, Mamata Banerjee’s head was split open by Bengal’s Communist Police. Many of her party workers who were marching with her were massacred in front of her eyes. This is the bloodsoaked reality of Bengal. No questions were ever asked because our “civil society” was too busy admiring the “secularist credentials” of the mass murderers that ruled Bengal.
Remember? Bengal Home Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee admitted on the floor of the Assembly in 1997 that 28,000 political murders had been committed in the state since the CPIM came to rule in 1977. The CPIM government was not ashamed. They were boasting these numbers.
And our civil society was so happy with this “performance” that they still cry for the CPIM’s “Himalayan blunder” of 1996-1997 when Jyoti Basu missed out on bringing his “model” of governance to Delhi.
For his part, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became a hero for the CPIM’s faithful. By 1999, he was promoted to Deputy CM and then ruled Bengal for two terms as CM.
Mamata Banerjee learned her Stalinism at the feet of the Communists that she fought for three decades. She learned well. And the people of Bengal have learned to live with it.
If the current events indicate anything at all, it is the fact that the cracks in the fortress are for everyone to see, the fall is imminent.