Metamorphosis of the Bengali- From Left Wing to Nationalism Again

Written by: Pathikrit
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How will Bengal vote this time for the ensuing National Elections? Will there be similar enthusiasm for Trinamool Congress as it was in 2011 when the state electorate overwhelmingly voted them to power and routed the Left Front? Will Trinamool Congress be able to repeat its stellar performance of 2009 elections? Recent poll predictions suggest that Mamata Banerjee's TMC may improve on the performance of 2009 and may get between 20-28 seats in the Lok Sabha Elections while the Left Front may get between 7-13 seats as per the opinion poll conducted by CNN IBN. It further suggests that while Trinamool Congress might end up with around 33% vote share, Left Front would have a depleted vote share of 25% while Congress is expected to have 19% share. Surprisingly BJP is expected to have more than doubled its vote share from 6% to around 14% or even more as per some surveys by regional news agencies.

Even though it is for sure that Trinamool Congress would have the largest number of seats from Bengal, much of the enthusiasm of the Bengal voters for TMC, that was evident in the 2011 assembly elections, may not be present this time.

Over the last two and a half years, West Bengal has been mired with a myriad of issues which the incumbent regime has failed to address in the right manner. Law & Order has literally gone for a toss. There has been a series of rape cases, most of which have hogged the national limelight. Not the just the tragic incidents of rapes but also the appalling indifference of the TMC government, shocking statements by the Chief Minister as well as sheer inability of a crumbling police administration to put a lid on such incidents have rattled the City of Joy.

If the shocking incident of the Park Street Rape Case and Mamata Baneree's scoffing it off as a ‘Cooked Up' event to malign her government eventually led to the cracking of the case by Kolkata Joint Police Commissioner Damayanti Sen and her subsequent transfer, possibly as a punishment for solving the case and thereby snubbing the Chief Minister, several similar incidents of rapes and killing of young girls in Barasat in the North 24 Parganas District, exposed that things have not changed much in spite of the rhetoric.

For many erstwhile die hard supporters of Mamata Banerjee including MP Kabir Suman, it is hard to believe the way the activist Mamata who has always stood firm beside the ‘aggrieved' during her days in opposition, has now become indifferent and adamant by her constant refuting of issues, her blaming the opposition for everything and turning a blind eye to the reality. For a city like Kolkata and a state like Bengal which has always taken pride in feminism and women liberty, the sheer lack of safety for women in the state now has become a real issue of concern and a topic of discussion.

If the deteriorating law & order situation is one thing, industrial stagnation and inability of TMC government to attract big ticket investors is another issue. Bengal every year produces a large number of graduates and most continue to look for opportunities elsewhere as it has been for more than a decade now. In spite of expectations of change of regime bringing industrialisation, things have gone for the worse. The incidents of Nandigram and Singur , the stand taken by TMC in those incidents, as well as several instances of labour union agitations, assault on factory managers and supervisors by trade unions, blockades over land issues have all contributed to keep major investors at bay.

Further, the major Chit Fund scam in Bengal by Saradha Group which duped 1.4 million investors to the tune of Rs 4,000 in Bengal as reported by Business Today and the alleged involvement of several Trinamool leaders in it have also not helped the TMC regime either.

This apart, vote bank politics, an extremely lenient approach on the issue of illegal infiltrations from Bangladesh and lack of decisive policy initiatives have all gone contributed to a growing negative sentiment in Bengal.

All this may not translate into instant vote against the ruling regime primarily because of a lack of a decisive and viable alternative in Bengal. The erstwhile Left Front, led by CPI(M), is still to recover from the massive routing it got in 2011 Bengal Assembly Elections. The void in its leadership and its inability to leverage on the failure of the ruling regime is evident from the fact that this time its vote share is expected to go down even further to around 25 %.

To a great extent it has helped in parties like BJP expecting to increase their vote share in the forthcoming elections by an impressive amount. The party's primary membership has gone up manifold. Also one can witness several parallel organisations like Narendra Modi Sena having emerged which are working towards making people vote for BJP in the Lok Sabha Elections. Even a few years back, it would have been unthinkable to see social media groups in favour of Narendra Modi emerging out of Bengal and having a considerable membership.

Officially such groups have no relationship with the BJP party but emergence of such groups in the social media, their active engagement in field campaigning is a remarkable thing from the perspective of Bengal and is a reflection of the popularity of Narendra Modi even in states where BJP's organisational strength may not be that high. Narendra Modi Sena with near 12,000 online members is like many such groups which have emerged in India, having memberships mostly from working professionals and college students.

Pabitra Dey, settled in Doha is planning to return to Kolkata 10 days before Lok Sabha Elections to do field campaigning for Modi in Bengal. Names like Satya Prakash Yadav, Tanmay Basak, Dev Saha many not ring a bell so far as political news is concerned, but each of them finds time from their work and other chores to campaign for Narendra Modi through their social outreach programmes and field visits. That in a left leaning Bengal, young expat Bengalis taking out time to canvas for BJP reflects a surprising trend.

Even as India's political landscape continues throw up interesting events and the nation's quest for a regime change and a stronger government continues, Bengal's ground level metamorphosis, happening albeit steadily but silently is an interesting thing to watch. While TMC may be successful to win most of seats for Lok Sabha this time, the situation may change much in the ensuing five years.

With Lok Sabha Elections barely three months away, and with each party making their ground ready, Sumantra Maiti would be like several Bengali expats, planning to return and do their bit for the ensuing elections. His choice is clear, "I want to see a decisive leader like Modi to be at the helm of affairs and lead India to a new horizon. And I will do my bit to help him". The land of Netaji Subhas Bose and Shyama Prasad Mukherji is witnessing some interesting metamorphosis of resurging nationalism in Bengal and its gradual moving away from Left politics at the grassroots level. And it is hard to ignore.

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