#DHRecaps | Year of clashes, BJP rise in Bengal

#DHRecaps | Year of clashes, BJP rise in Bengal

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

For West Bengal, 2018 has been a year of violent land agitation, communal clashes and the gradual rise of the BJP in the state.

Once considered an impenetrable CPM bastion, Bengal witnessed the continuing decline of the party which ruled it for 34 years. Although the electoral dominance of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has continued, it faced stiff challenge from the BJP and other right wing organisations, especially during the last Panchayat elections. 

The agitation which started with the opposition of locals against setting up a power grid at Bhangar in South 24 Paraganas, turned violent when two local youths were reportedly shot dead by the police during a protest demonstration on January 17. This was the first major land agitation in the state after the TMC came to power in 2011, which put West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a spot.

The situation started going out of the TMC's hands as its local leaders engaged in bitter and often fatal faction feud. With no other opposition party having  clout in Bhangar, the agitators were mostly disgruntled ruling party cadres.

For more than six months, the agitators went blow-for-blow with the TMC, and the clashes claimed at least four lives including, a right-hand man of local strongman and former TMC MLA Arabul Islam.

The agitation was finally quelled when the leaders, mainly from the CPML Red Star, entered into a settlement with the state government in August.

The state was rocked by clashes with communal overtones over armed Ram Navami rallies held by right wing organisations with BJP support. Clashes erupted in March in West Bardhaman, North 24 Paraganas and Purulia, claiming at least four lives and injuring several others.

The state was in shock following the lynching of an imam’s son in Asansol on April 28. However, the imam’s ardent appeal to locals to maintain peace stopped the incident developing into a communal riot.

The last two major developments in the state are both related to the BJP. The saffron party proved to be a major cause of concern for the TMC in the Panchayat elections held earlier this year.

The party made significant inroads into the districts of Jhargram and Purulia which are considered as TMC bastions. The BJP bagged more than 40% of seats at the gram Panchayat level, coming second only to the TMC, which got 48% seats in Jhargram.

In Purulia, the BJP got 33% gram Panchaya seats, while the TMC got about 43% seats. Prior to the Panchayat elections, Bengal witnessed a prolonged legal battle between the TMC government and the BJP. No other party could file nominations for these seats due to the TMC's reported terror tactics.

There is another legal tussle going on between the state government and the BJP over the latter’s Rath Yatra. After several twists and turns at the Calcutta High Court, the BJP has approached the Supreme Court in this regard. The case is expected to come up for hearing in early January next year.

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