Whither Bengal Politics? A View | The Background

Monday, August 2, 2021

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Whither Bengal Politics? A View

Md. Afsar Ali

The West Bengal assembly election result deserves critical analysis from all possible angles. It is not only the prime trend-setter of the nature of governance in the next five years but also an important indicator of the nature of the government we are likely to get after this period. People fought tooth and nail to thwart the powerful politico-cultural aggression on Bengali cultural identity designed, drafted and fielded by the most powerful persons and bodies. They mustered the gut to fight against the established institutionalised big powers, which was rooted strongly within Rabindra-Nazrul Bengali cultural tradition of social tolerance and harmony. The majority of the voters were with the positive unifying forces and fought with the strength derived from this unity. The election result discarded the high voltage aggressive brand of alien (to Bengal and Bengalis), divisive and hate-based political philosophy. The people, as of now, got sigh of relief ensuring traditional cultural reign.
Careful analysis of this election result, however, does not give long term relief to us. The aggressive alien political force is breathing on our shoulders with BJP becoming the only opposition political force in the floor of the Assembly. The so called “secular democratic” political forces, the Congress and the Left, have been unexpectedly reduced to zero. The extreme rightist party was able to strengthen itself many folds. Although there was an element of anti incumbency, those who voted Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress (TMC) to power did not vote out of support to her or her party; rather they voted TMC to check BJP’s aggressive politics on Bengalis’ culture and unity, which I have already mentioned earlier. The ruling party got the largest number of seats in its history and it is likely to be seen whether the party is going to change its mode of governance and become more democratic and egalitarian to comfortably retain these temporarily compulsive voters in the next assembly election.

 Seats won in West Bengal State Assembly

Let’s come to the point of secular democratic opposition party here and the probability of future governance. We know that whosoever has a beginning has its end. So the Congress ruled West Bengal for a long period time and then went away; Left Front came to power and had 34 years of uninterrupted rule till 2011 and was defeated. TMC is running the government now and has a massive mandate. But what future holds, no one is certain about it.
The BJP is the main opposition party; the voters have checked their advance for now. The newly formed ISF has managed to bag just one seat in this election. One can see this as a promising start of a brand new political party in electoral politics, but considering the quality and credibility of its leadership – I can’t but see a doomsday about the future of this party. ISF will not be able to manage its’ mere survival even in the upcoming election. The reasons are many: first, the top ISF leader’s non-democratic attitude who is least interested in decentralising the organisation set up by not involving the educated and politically far-sighted persons. Secondly, it rode a wrong horse to win the very tough battle of electoral politics. ISF although claiming to be a party of the downtrodden masses (SC-ST-Muslim and other minorities), who are the victims for more than seven long decades’ monopolised upper-caste political discourse, jumped on the sinking boats of these hostile political forces (Congress & Left Front) in a pre-poll alliance! Moreover, it blatantly refused any alliance with its natural political allies who are working for the same downtrodden masses. This alliance was purely opportunistic, unrealistic thus, unsustainable. It has been proved just after the election – the opportunistic allies have already left ISF to face the post poll heat alone; whereas the natural allies are kept at “safe distance” by the ISF commander himself. So, the downtrodden mass political unity did not take shape, which would have saved baby ISF in this hostile political atmosphere. Thirdly, the irresponsibly delivered hot public speeches even by the highest rank of ISF leaders – on the one hand retracts the common peace loving citizens, arose disrespect towards the leader and his party, increased avoidable political enmity, and nakedly exposed the bad level of incompetency of the leaders. Fourthly, emergence of ISF even with just one seat is a historic event after independence. Because the established political forces see it as the opening of account by a non Upper caste led political party – for the first time in long seven decades. This is a bad omen for them – particularly in view of the vast majority of the downtrodden masses in this State. All these factors would put ISF to a very tough test to survive, which might not be possible for this toddler with its incompetent leader to get through.

   Map of the Election Results, 2021. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
The other secular democratic political forces – the Congress and the Left Front could not even manage to get a single seat. The voters did not find the assuring winning strength in these parties in order to keep BJP at bay. So, even their base supporters voted TMC considering it a much better choice in this regard. But it does not mean that these voters discarded their old parties for good. To vote TMC this time was their situational compulsion in view of the larger interest of the country. Equally true is the fact that if these two parties get back their old supporters, neither Congress nor the Left Front or their combined alliance would be capable of defeating BJP in 2026 assembly election or beyond.
What is the way out to ensure Bengal ruled by a secular democratic force(s)? The present arrangement of political forces in the state, their past records and their trend of activities indicate no alternative but a clear way for the BJP to capture Bengal’s political power in near future. Those who want to keep this divisive and politico-culturally aggressive force out of power must devise and implement the means and modes with a five year planning to develop and /or strengthen a truly capable secular democratic political force, which could give a credible fight in the coming election to BJP.
The divisive policy of BJP once again came out from its official statement about the reasons of its recent defeat in W.B. assembly election. It singled out the Muslims responsible of its defeat. But the fact is, BJP got about 38 per cent votes and the TMC secured about 48 per cent votes. Even if 90 per cent of the total Muslim voters in the state (about 30 per cent) voted in favour of TMC, there could have been 27 per cent Muslims’ vote share in the 48 per cent TMC votes. The remaining 21 per cent votes definitely came from the non-Muslim voters. Now, there is a 10 per cent vote difference between TMC and BJP. So, even if half of these 21 per cent non-Muslims, who voted TMC to keep BJP out of power, would vote the BJP, this 10 per cent winning gap would have been overcome and BJP could have won! But the 21 per cent non-Muslim voters did not want BJP to come to power and the party lost. If these non-Muslims did not want BJP, then what the Muslims can do? The BJP leaders know this better. They cannot give up their fascist political philosophy of projecting Muslim minority as imagined enemy and labelling this community as the source of all problems, misfortune, epidemic, … all failure and misfortune; channelling the anger of the majority community (although caused by the failure of the party in power) towards the weaker community. This gives easy victory over the ‘enemy’ and consequently electoral dividend.
It is time to get out of the trap of divisive aggressive forces and save the constitutionally guaranteed diversity – essentially in the politico-cultural field.

The writer is a political commentator.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Background.

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