Fall of Left and rise of BJP in West Bengal
New Delhi, March 25: The Left parties will be fighting 2019 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal for their survival. While other political parties have finalised the seat-sharing formulas with like-minded parties just before the 2019 General Elections, the Left has failed to forge an alliance in any state.
The Congress party, which is also not preferred alliance partner for many regional parties, did not agree to the Left Front's terms in West Bengal, a state that the Left Front had ruled for 34 long years since 1977 before being ousted by Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress (TMC).
In 2014, the Left Front managed to win only two seats out of 42 Lok Sabha seats of the state.
"The biggest challenge before the Left Front in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections is to retain those two seats," a reporter, who covers West Bengal politics, tells One India.
The key constituents of the 10-party Left Front are Communist Party of India- Marxist (CPI-M), All India Forward Bloc (AIFB), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Communist Party of India (CPI).
The media person, who does not wish to be named, decodes the fall of Communist forces and rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during TMC rule.
"The biggest strength of the Communist parties was their cadres, so Mamata used muscle and money power to lure Left cadres into TMC fold after assuming power in West Bengal. Many other Left cadres were poached by the BJP after Narendra Modi led government was installed in 2014. Today, majority of the cadres left with the Left Front are old. Now, the Left Front does not have enough cadres to act as polling agents in over 2500 polling booths out of 70000 in the state,"says the journalist.
"Muslim vote bank- other strength of the Left Front- has been nourished so well by Mamata that West Bengal has become a safe haven for Muslims. West Bengal police have unwritten order- take no objection certificate from the local TMC leaders before taking any action against any Muslim. Mamata has left behind the Left Front in appeasing the deciding vote bank of the state," adds the reporter.
More than 25% of the West Bengal population is Muslim, one of the highest in the country.
When asked about the extortion charge Prime Minister Narendra Modi had leveled against the TMC, the reporter says, "It is not something new phenomenon that the TMC has invented. Mamata government is just carrying forward the practice of the Left Front rule vigorously."
Addressing a rally in Durgapur in February, Prime Minister Modi said, "Every child knows that there is a thing called triple T in Bengal - Trinamool Tolabaji Tax." Tolabaji is colloquial Bengali for extortion.
"You cannot do even a small construction in your house without paying Tolabaji to the local TMC Councillor. Another form of extortion is religious chanda (religious donation). The bigger business you have the more chanda you will have to pay. Earlier, this political extortion was being practiced by the Left Front. This is the main reason that many businesses houses have migrated from West Bengal," the media person tells this scribe.
It is notable that this extortion racked was exposed when a TMC Councillor Anindya Chattopadhyay of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation was arrested in 2016 for demanding a huge amount of money from a woman, who wanted to construct her house in Salt Lake area.
The Hindu had reported that the councillor was arrested because the victim knew Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who had telephoned Mamata Banerjee to look into the matter.
"There are many like Chattopadhyay who have not faced the heat of law and running extortion syndicate. Not only extortion, but the house owners and builders are also forced to buy building material from the supplier suggested by the syndicate. Even the lobourers are also supplied by the syndicate," says the reporter, adding that the parties of the Left Front did not oppose appeasement and extortion rackets because they only gave birth to these evil practices during their rule.
Talking about the BJP in West Bengal, the media person says that the party has seen remarkable growth in the state after Narendra Modi assumed power at the Centre.
"The biggest reason for the rise of the BJP in the state is the appeasement policy of incumbent TMC and erstwhile Left Front governments. With the BJP government at the centre, the insecure Bengali Hindus saw a ray of hope and got attracted towards BJP's Hindutva."
The senior journalist says that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spread its wings across the state rapidly after the 2014 general election results.
"The BJP targeted the menace of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. The party leaders and its frontal organisations have been successful in highlighting the danger to the Bengali culture in the TMC rule. Massive hoardings of the TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee offering prayers in Muslim dominated areas, the state government's decision to providing monetary and other benefits to imams, ban on immersion of Durga idols after Dussehra, and open support to triple talaq made the task of the BJP easy," says the Bengali journo.
"Like the Left Front, the TMC has also been treating Muslims as a vote bank. With the electoral victories of the BJP, a Hindu vote bank has also emerged for the first time, which also includes people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It is also a fact that despite the state government's full backing, a sense of insecurity among the Muslims is witnessed for the first time in various incidents of communal violence in the state during last five years. The situation is ideal for both the TMC and the BJP as the Muslims see Mamata as their saviour and the Hindus see a ray of hope in Narendra Modi," adds the reporter.
Another reason for the Left Front's fall and BJP's rise in West Bengal is due to their stance on the corruption.
While the Left Front and the Congress failed to attack Mamata Banerjee government on issues of corruption like Sarada, Rose Valley and Narada sting probe, the BJP has been aggressively cornering TMC government over these issues.
The journalist, however, says that apart from these big scams almost all West Bengal government contracts are laced with corruption.
"For example, the firm owned by Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of Mamata Banerjee, had got the street light contract of Kolkata worth around Rs 30 core without inviting any tender as soon as the TMC had assumed power in 2011. The local media knows everything but does nothing as it is not easy to remain in business after going against the TMC government. This is the reason I don't want to be attributed in your story," the reporter confesses.
Today, the BJP has left behind the Left Front and the Congress in West Bengal politics.
The growth of the BJP can be gauged by the fact that during 2018 West Bengal Panchayat Polls it emerged second after the TMC in almost all districts.