BJP to replicate Kerala strategy in West Bengal

BJP to replicate Kerala strategy in West Bengal

BJP workers raise slogans during a protest rally against the alleged attack on BJP MP Arjun Singh, in Kolkata, Monday, Sept 02, 2019. PTI

The BJP is replicating its Kerala model of protest — in fact, upscaling it — in West Bengal to highlight the alleged “political killings” of its workers. A year ago, the party had organised a fortnight-long Jan Raksha Yatra to highlight “political murders” in the Trinamool Congress-ruled state.

BJP Working President J P Nadda, who will visit Kolkata this week to address an event on abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and National Register for Citizens (NRC), will also attend a party programme organised to offer ‘tarpan’ and carry out “pind daan” (offering to the departed soul to free it from the cycle of birth and give peace and solace to the soul) to nearly 80 party workers.

BJP alleges that they have been killed in political violence in the state since 2013, two years after TMC came to power in the state, bringing an end to the 34-year-old rule of the Left in 2011. BJP had in the past slammed Left Front too for the culture of political violence.

Only in July this year, late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had said it was surprising that political killings are taking place in West Bengal under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee who herself has been a victim of political violence.

BJP chief Amit Shah has for long been questioning as to why the political killings were visible only in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, where CPM has ruled for long.

Since independence, the BJP has been a fringe player in all the three states, which were traditionally the citadels of Left, but has in recent years seen a good rise the support base.

While in Tripura, BJP in alliance with Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), has a government now after the alliance overthrew the 25-year-old Left Front government headed by Manik Sarkar in March last year, BJP’s dream for power in Kerala and West Bengal are yet to realize.

In Kerala, where it has always been a marginal force, the party’s Hindutva pitch, riding high on the Sabrimala agitation, failed to yield any good number of seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, though it notched up nearly 13% votes, 2% higher than what it got in 2014.

In October last year, the BJP had held a 15-day foot march in Kerala named Jan Raksha Yatra in which the saffron party top leaders had taken part, accusing the ruling CPM of “murder politics’. The Yatra was carried out with a slogan “Everyone should live” and it was touted as an event against “Red & Jihadi Terror’.

In May 2016, BJP workers had held a protest outside Delhi office of CPM, protesting against the killing of its workers in Kerala where the Left front ruled.

BJP has been alleging that since 2001, nearly 130 of its workers have been killed in Kerala by Left cadres. Official statistics, however, show almost an equal number of political workers from CPM killed in political violence in this period, followed distantly by Congress and Muslim League.

While in Kerala, Kannur is the epicentre of political violence, in West Bengal it is the entire state. Violence earlier happened between the supporters of the then CPM-led ruling Left Front and TMC, it is now happening more between the TMC and BJP supporters.

While in Kerala, the BJP failed to cut much ice, in West Bengal, BJP has already registered a nine-fold jump this time, winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls as against the mere two it had won in 2014. This, when West Bengal has 30% of the Muslim population, which by and large does not vote for BJP.

In West Bengal, even the rise in BJP’s vote share has been much more rapid than what it had to contend with in Kerala. It’s vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha polls shot up to nearly 40.23%, almost two and half times more than the  17.02% it had got in 2014.

In the 2011 West Bengal Assembly elections, the BJP had got only 4% votes. Again in 2016, BJP got 10.16% votes, a steep four-time fall from its Lok Sabha vote share.

BJP is hoping to wrest power in West Bengal from TMC in 2021 assembly polls after its spectacular success in the state in Lok Sabha polls 2019. The party has already upped the ante on Hindutva plank, organising events on the removal of Article 370 and 35A in Jammu and Kashmir and NRC. BJP chief Amit Shah is to visit Kolkata on October 1 to inaugurate four Durga Puja pandals.

In the last assembly polls in West Bengal, the BJP had won only three seats and the gap between votes garnered by BJP and Trinamool Congress was a huge over 34%.

Hence, whether the BJP registers any big gain in 2021 assembly polls in the state where it does not have a formidable state face to take on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, remains to be seen.

No CM face

However, BJP leaders argue that they had not projected any face in state elections for Maharashtra and Harayan in 2014 but they won riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity.

The “tarpan” event being organised on September 28 at Balurghat in Kolkata, on Mahalaya day — the last day of the Shraadh period of the Hindu calendar, is a culmination of the different programmes being carried out by the BJP for flagging the “political violence”.

It comes two months after families of 23 alleged victims of political violence (all belonging to BJP) in July chose to speak collectively at a programme called ‘Public Tribunal’ organised by a think tank, close to the saffron Parivar, on the issue of `violence and undemocratic atmosphere’ in the state.

Before that, BJP had observed ‘Black Day’ in Bashirhat, 70 km away from Kolkata. The shut down in Bashirhat and rallies in Kolkata were organised protest against the killing of its workers and the “deteriorating” law and order situation in West Bengal.

As there is still more than one and a half years away, BJP is expected to ratchet up the issue further and more political action is in the offing.

DH News Service

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