The bhadroloks of West Bengal are still not ready to believe that the recent disturbance in Kaliachak in Malda district of the state, had anything to do with communal tension.
It is not untrue to hold that the clash in Malda was entirely a communal one.
There were a number of factors that played a role in the chaos: the local opium mafia, cross-border criminal activities, local political competition and administrative failure to rein in the elements.
Malda has changed perception about Bengal politics
But whatever be the reasons, the effect of the Malda episode has been a defining one on Bengal's politics and that is the changing perception about it. Mamata Banerjee's Bengal has every potential to become communally sensitive if the right recipe for disaster is procured.
The minority appeasement project
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leadership has efficiently taken forward the project of minority appeasement which its predecessor, the Left, had initiated during its rule so that the reins of power did not slip out of its hand. But the issue of minority appeasement in Bengal had always been an undercurrent unlike in states like Gujarat where religious polarisation has been more explicit and makes the national headlines more readily.
Strong organisation, weak media earlier
There are two reasons for this. First, the Left Front during his heydays had run the show in such organised manner, thanks to its disciplined machinery, that the near non-existent Opposition had little scope or capacity to expose it.
Secondly, the national media (the local media of Bengal still, for some mysterious reason, prefers to ignore these incidents) was still to explode when the Left was at its peak in Bengal.
Not many remember today the incidents of Marichjhapi or Chhoto Angaria and several others where human rights were undermined with monstrosity.
In those days when social media was not a familiar term and even mainstream media had its limited reach, concealing Bengal's ground reality was not easy.
Unfortunately, for Mamata Banerjee today, it is no more possible to hide what's happening on the ground. The reach of the media is far too wide. Moreover, the TMC lacks the same organisation as the Left once had, which makes it all the more difficult to cover up things smoothly.
Fierce political competition
But besides the religious angle, the Malda disturbance also makes it evident that political competition is now at its fiercest best in the poll-bound state. The area where the clashes took place is one where all four political forces of the state, namely, the TMC, Left, Congress and BJP have a stake.
All four sides have a stake in Malda
While the TMC wants to prove that it has completely snatched Malda from the clutches of the Congress, which always had a stronghold in the district; the Left and the BJP are equally interested, though from different ideological positions, to expose before the world that Mamata Banerjee's minority appeasement has pushed Bengal on the verge of disaster.
The BJP has particularly found the Malda incident for it gives it a much-needed opportunity to polarise the voters ahead of the Assembly polls.
Bengal in transition?
The days of a monolithic power dominating Bengal's electoral politics look numbered now. After the huge fall of the Left and now Mamata Banerjee also losing the moral authority fast, there appears ample scope for political experimentation in Bengal in days to come.
One wouldn't be surprised if that state emerges as another Uttar Pradesh in the near future.