West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s effort to twist the jihadi narrative emerging from her state to tarnish the opposition BJP as communal is neither good governance nor good politics. Since the first bomb blast in Burdwan earlier this month, it has become clear that under her watch, the state has been degenerating into a terror hub, possibly with the active support of her government officials and party members. The state government has failed to stop assorted jihadis and jamaatis as they set up base in West Bengal. More than half-way into her first term, she knows that she is losing ground. Her promises for change have not been fulfilled; law and order in the state has deteriorated and social tensions have become more palpable.
The Saradha chit fund scam hit her government hard and the Burdwan blasts could well make it difficult for her to secure a second term, especially if in the next two years, the BJP emerges as a strong alternative, as it is expected to given its performance in the Lok Sabha election. If Banerjee wants to remain in power, she must focus on good governance rather than raise the “communal” bogey to keep the BJP at bay. Till recently, the BJP wasn’t much of a factor in the traditionally left-leaning state. But, the decline of communists and the fading away of the Congress have helped the BJP to establish itself.
The rise in its vote share from six per cent in 2009 to 16.8 per cent in the parliamentary polls indicates how it is making room for itself as the Trinamool Congress’s base of support is eroded, first by the hooliganism of its cadre—which recalls Leftist rule—and the state government’s pandering to Islamic extremists in the mistaken belief that any action against them will antagonise the ordinary Muslims. Since the fanatics are believed to be members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen of Bangladesh, the Burdwan episode has an international dimension which the chief minister cannot ignore.