KOLKATA: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s sustained push to make inroads ahead of the West Bengal Assembly elections next year and the Trinamool Congress’s fierce efforts to thwart the attempts are turning south Bengal into killing fields.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had alluded to it, saying those who had failed to challenge the BJP democratically have resorted to murdering its workers to achieve their goals. “Maut ka khel (killing game) cannot get you votes,” he said without naming the TMC.
Police data studied by this newspaper showed that of the 47 political killings involving BJP and TMC workers since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 38 happened in south Bengal. Twelve of the political killings took place in the last six months.
A majority of those who were killed, 28, were BJP supporters, while 18 were TMC workers and one was a Socialist Unity Centre of India activist. The reason why south Bengal has turned into a bloody political battlefield is because this is where the BJP sees it can make inroads into TMC territory.
In the political landscape of West Bengal, there are 85 minority- dominated seats. Here the TMC has built an almost impregnable base through its Muslim-friendly policies. The BJP in any case doesn’t enjoy the community’s trust. Then there are 55 seats, mostly in north Bengal, which have a substantial number of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh.
In these seats the BJP has wide support. This was underlined in the parliamentary elections last year, when it won seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats. That apart, there are 25 seats where tribals have a large presence. They mainly are in the Jungle Mahal region, where the BJP has managed to create a base.
So, with the electoral leanings in 165 (85+55+25) seats of the total 294 clear, a fierce fight has broken out between the BJP and the TMC for the remaining 129 seats. As all of them are located in south Bengal, the region has turned into a hotbed of violence.
TMC’s resistance to BJP push leading to violence
The Trinamool already has a stranglehold on these 129 seats, but the BJP senses an opening and has launched a major thrust into these areas. “The state’s history narrates a tale of bloodbath since the time it was ruled by the Congress and the Left. As regimes changed and new ideologies surfaced, flexing muscle was either justified or opposed through new, conflicting interpretations.
A new political force is emerging on the soil of Bengal and the ruler is opposing. It is resulting in violence, especially in areas where the ruling party has strongh presence,” said Bishnupriya Dutta Gupta, a political science professor at Behala College. Citing the example of the BJP’s onslaught in north Bengal, a TMC leader said, “In the 2016 Assembly elections, they had a vote share of 7.7% in Jalpaiguri constituency.
They bagged more than 51% vote in the same constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It was simply unbelievable. We never imagined such an electoral swing could take place.” Likewise, the BJP’s vote share in Ranaghat Uttar Paschim Assembly constituency rose to 55% in 2019 from 4.8% in the 2016 state polls, the leader pointed out.
As the BJP is trying to make inroads in districts like East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Birbhum, North 24 Parganas and Nadia, where the ruling party has a strong presence, resistance and violence are mounting. TMC MP and spokesperson Sougata Roy said the killings were not always political. “Two groups fought on local issues and someone died unfortunately.
The state is not witnessing the violence we used to see when CPM was in power. BJP leaders are issuing provocative statements,” he said. However, BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu blamed the TMC for the bloodshed. “The party has realised the end of its era is near. Since we are the only choice oft he people, the TMC is unleashing attacks on us,” he alleged.