The political dynamics of West Bengal depends upon the 2021 assembly election, making it one of the most crucial election. Bhartiya Janta Party’s success in Bihar after cut-throat opposition competition, could also impact West Bengal’s future course. Trinamool Congress’s and West Bengal CM Mamta Banarjee is trying every means to protect power from the clutches of ever-growing BJP by resorting to the traditional regionalism tactic.
Mamta Banerjee has a strong position in West Bengal since 2011. Uncertainty mounts as major parties throw arrows and verbal remarks in electoral campaign.
The political structure of the State will see a unique turn as many political analysts look at the 2021 elections as a battle between Nationalism and Regionalism which is observed as the underlying themes of BJP and TMC respectively.
Regionalism, in its essence, has been a threat to nationalism. Still, at the same time, it helps the State to protect its ethnic and cultural identity and occasionally leads to economic development. Regionalism is a common political tactic used in every country to protect and mobilize aspiration of people.
BJP’S Gujrat Model and Hindutva wave:
Gujrat Model, is essentially, a decade from 2002-2012, when the State experienced quantum growth in terms of economic activities by then CM Narendra Modi. Thus, the model is widely used by BJP in terms of influencing other states and has a significant role in the big win of the 2014 General elections.
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh urged voters to elect BJP to power and enable them to emulate Gujarat growth model in the State. In Mr Ghosh’s words “Give us a chance so we could change this scenario in Bengal and turn the state into a business and industry hub like Gujarat, so youths don’t have to look for jobs elsewhere.”
BJP’s new slogan “Ebar Bangla Parle Sambhla” (Bengal, save if you can). The slogan indicates imperialist view of BJP after gaining momentum in Bihar. To reply, Mamta Banarjee coined “Duare Sarkar” for its governmental policies which will be provided on “doorsteps.”
With more leaders from Delhi approaching West Bengal for electoral campaign, TMC MP Saugata Roy said to The wire “BJP is parachuting its Delhi leaders in, to control Bengal. This clearly shows they don’t trust their Bengal leaders.”
BJP cleverly refute outsider tag given by TMC and connects with the people by providing example of Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Swami Vivekananda. Using historical factor, BJP is luring West Bengal.
Digs at West Bengal’s law and order and development:
The BJP profoundly pointed out that the students from West Bengal, who once were seen dominating the civil services examination, now do not feature in the merit list. The party pushed the blame upon the Left Front government for the sudden downfall in the education sector.
Mr Ghosh said “Biman babu (the Left Front chairman Biman Bose) and Buddha Babu (former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee) have successfully politicized the people in a way that we now produce migrant workers who move to Gujarat for menial work, and not doctors, engineers or professors.”
Raju Banerjee, vice-chief, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) West Bengal unit said: “Over time, the meaning of TMC kept changing, it has now become a Terrorist Manufacturing Company.”
Mr Ghosh took a dig at the law-and-order and commented “The other day six Al-Qaeda terrorists were arrested from Aipurduar (in North Bengal). A network has been formed in several places of the State. Even Bangladesh leader Khaleda Zia has said the terrorists are being trained in India and sent to Bangladesh to create disturbance. This State has become a centre of terrorists, and anti-nationals. They are coming here from other places and taking shelter. The situation of Bengal is now worse than Kashmir.”
TMC’S regionalism and outsider label to BJP:
TMC is smart enough to instil Bengali Pride and use regionalism to counter back BJP’s growing influence. After the appointment of Bengal’s governor by Centre and political chaos in the State, Mamta Banarjee said “Why should Gujarat rule all states? What’s the need for a federal structure?”
She and TMC further labelled BJP as an outsider and commented “People of Bengal will rule the state and not outsiders and people from Gujarat.”
In response to Gujrat Model, the TMC leadership didn’t fail to remind the BJP of the communal violence and atrocities against minorities in Gujarat in 2002.
West Bengal’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said: “People of Bengal are living in peace and they (BJP) want the State to be Gujarat.”
Mr Hakim further commented “Over 2,000 people were killed and encounter deaths of people like Ishrat Jahan have occurred. If Bengal is turned into Gujarat or U.P., then here, too, people will get killed in encounters. We want our State to remain the way it is.”
Mr Hakim reacted to Mr Ghosh’s assertion that Tata Motors small car production was set up in Sanand of Gujrat after being moved out from Singur, West Bengal, “the Tata Nano factory which was set up in Gujarat has closed down, while the MSME sector in West Bengal is making good progress. In Gujarat only a few industrialists are given preference.”
BJP’s plan to gain the confidence of the voters is unique to the kind exhibited by the saffron party previously. BJP has moved from Hindutva to focusing on development issues in the electoral campaign. However, leadership becomes vital to West Bengal as the party lacks a strong face.
As a regional party, TMC must focus on the ground level development and the burning issues like that of employment, education, healthcare etc., to have an impact on people. TMC has to go beyond regionalism argument for running a majority.
Though the BJP lacks a strong face of the party in Bengal but it has higher aspirations this time. On the other hand, TMC is rooting for regionalism in terms of language, culture and tradition of West Bengal, which gives TMC an upper hand. At the same time, it discredits the non-locals as outsiders who will set the State ablaze if they came in power in their opinion.
In the words of Professor Ajay Gudavarthy “In the upcoming election in West Bengal, the likely binary would be ‘outsider’s development’ versus ‘insider’s culture.’’