On Tuesday West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee threw down the gauntlet to political rivals from West Bengal. Virtually sounding the bugle for next year’s assembly election in West Bengal, Banerjee challenged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (CPI)-Marxist and Congress to come together . She further asserted that the Trinamool Congress (TMC) would go it alone and defeat them. Although she took potshots at all rival parties in the state, special treatment was meted out to the BJP. Banerjee, however, did not mention the party by name.
“Those who don’t have ideology and morality spread the poison of communalism,” she said. These verbal assaults must be seen in the context of the recent controversy surrounding a young woman called Tutuki Mondal. Missing since May of this year, Tuktuki Mondal of South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal returned to the police on Tuesday. In a statement to the court, she claimed that she had run away since her parents had physically abused her. However, Mondal’s case was grossly politicised, with various Hindutva groups, in cohorts with the state unit of the BJP, peddling a communal angle to the incident. These Hindutva groups had alleged that some people in the area’s Muslim community had abducted her. Even before Mondal presented herself before the police, the state unit of the BJP grabbed onto the issue. In fact on its website, the Bengal BJP took credit for her safe return, although the police categorically stated that Mondal had returned on her own.
Reminiscent of the party’s venal “love jihad” campaign in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP’s state unit said on Mondal’s ‘safe return’, “Our mission has just started to save every daughter and sister of West Bengal.” Whether the state opens itself up to such a brand of politics is yet to be seen. Recent electoral results in the state, however, suggest that the people have continued to reject the BJP state units continued attempts at communal polarisation.
In the erstwhile civic elections held between April 18 and 25, the TMC secured an emphatic victory, winning an overwhelming number of seats in the municipalities and wards across the state. The party swept across West Bengal, as the Trinamool scored 70 out of 92, the Left six and the Congress five. For the State BJP unit, which had harboured high hopes of challenging the ruling establishment, it was a rude wake-up call. It had failed to win a single municipality in the state. Prior to these civic elections, the two by-polls held in February saw the TMC retain both the Bongaon Lok Sabha seat and Krishanganj assembly segment with huge margins. Many political commentators had seen these by-polls as a litmus test for the TMC’s popularity in the state following the arrest of key party leaders by the CBI in the Saradha scam, allied with murmurs of dissidence within its ranks.
After relative success in the Lok Sabha elections and subsequent Basirhat South assembly by-poll last year, the BJP was looking to consolidate its position in the state. The BJP was humbled in both by-polls. In its apparent bid to establish a foothold in the state, the Bengal BJP seems willing to go to any lengths. For the time being, though, the TMC continues to tower over other rival parties in the state.