Four days after a terror attack in a restaurant in Dhaka's diplomatic enclave saw brutal death of 20 foreigners, the government of West Bengal, the state bordering Bangladesh, declared two days for Eid celebrations starting Wednesday.
The two occasions---one horrific and the other happy---might look apparently unrelated but deep within, they have a connection and it is very much relevant for the West Bengal Chief Minister---Mamata Banerjee.
Dhaka carnage will give rise to fresh challenges for Mamata
The carnage in Dhaka is bound to give birth to new political challenges for Banerjee and it will be interesting to see how the leader, who is known to be one who appeases the minorities, tackles them. [The more Bangladesh face terror threat, the more BJP will gain in Bengal]
On Monday (July 4), Banerjee warned state BJP chief and MLA Dilip Ghosh in the Assembly against seeking suspension of the Maitree Express train between Dhaka and Kolkata in the wake of the Dhaka attack, saying terror has no relation with Maitree (friendship) and asked the saffron party to show restraint and not propagate more intolerance. [Dhaka terror attack: The writing was on the wall]
Banerjee also said that she could not sleep on the night of July 1 after hearing the horrific tale that had unfolded in the Bangladesh capital and asked her administration to raise alert at the border areas of the state.
Dhaka-like instances would see a new form of polarisation suited to BJP's taste
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo is clearly worried over not only the security threat to her state but also the possible repercussions the Dhaka incident could have in the politics of Bengal. Banerjee, who led from the front to fight alone and buried old enemies like the Left and Congress who could do little despite putting up a joint resistance, knows very well that the other BJP will take full advantage of the Dhaka terror attack to cement its position in the state where it has mostly been a fringe player.
The BJP will have little hesitation in escalating the effort to polarise the state's politics for it has no baggage to bear. But for Banerjee, the huge Muslim population of Bengal (Muslims make up 27 per cent of the state's population) is a big electoral pillar and she cannot just do away with them, even in the face of the BJP's fiercest attack.
Mamata has avoided BJP in last two big polls for obvious reasons
Banerjee was seen attacking the BJP both during the general election of 2014 and state election earlier this year. The desperation to keep away from the saffron party to maintain its secular image among the minorities was clear although the Opposition like the Left and Congress said it was all eyewash. The BJP, too, kept away from the TMC leadership so that its image was not tainted by the corruption related to cases like Saradha and Narada.
At the end, the BJP's presence divided the Opposition's votes and helped the TMC.
But now, with the Left and Congress virtually washed out of the state (the Congress has gained seat-wise but its political presence in Bengal is ineffective), the TMC has a potential rival in the BJP which can receive a major boost in the wake of Dhaka-like incidents.
Mamata will have tough questions to answer if she continues to play appeasement politics even after terror attacks
The ruling party would experience more headache from the saffron brigade if it continues to play the appeasement politics, like for instance, declaring two days of holiday for Eid.
Banerjee might find an opportunity to assure the minorities in the state on the occasion of Eid to prove her worth as a leader to stands by them but such a move just four days after a horrendous attack in the neighbouring country could backfire and help the BJP's chances instead.
Why declare two-day holiday for Eid?
Banerjee also stressed having good relations with Bangladesh which is more logical. But as it is always a problem with the politicians, they find it hard to beat the temptation of serving a political cause. It was absolutely unnecessary for the Bengal government to declare a two-day Eid holiday this year.
If it fails to do the more important work of securing the state against infiltration of the sinister elements after the Bangladesh government cracks down on them, then the political opponents will gain more ammunition to accuse Banerjee as a pseudo-secular who puts the lives of the majority in danger but yet appeals to the minority sentiments.
Why give them a chance to play this politics?