Left, Right, Left Right
Left, right, left, right...the BJP marches into Bengal. The mighty 'left', once a formidable force in the state has been reduced to zero. Is Bengal going to swing to the 'right' next? The BJP won 19 (?) seats vs 22 (?) by the TMC. Who would have thought this was possible a few years ago. Things take time in Bengal, but then change happens.
After 34 years of uninterrupted Left rule, Mamata stormed into the red bastion promising 'poriborton' in 2011. Almost single handedly she ended the communist stranglehold on the state - most thought it was an impossibility back then. Red splashes of colour on buildings, offices, posters and flags made way for blue and white of the TMC. Nobody thought there would be space for saffron. But then like I said, it takes time, but Bengal might be readying itself for change once again.
Bengal was once one of our richest provinces, with tremendous geo-political, cultural and historical influence, but then began its fall a few decades ago. It's decline was hastened by years of debilitating misrule and violence the stamped the communist era. After years of stagnation and despair, when the people voted for Mamata, they voted for hope, they voted for change. She rode to power with tremendous swell of support, but the fact is that 'poriborton' is still elusive.
A few years ago the BJP was non existent in Bengal. Riding the Modi wave in 2014, they won two seats - Asansol and Darjeeling, after which Bengal was placed firmly at the top of Amit Shah's agenda. Modi himself addressed 17 rallies, marking its importance. The past few years have seen the BJP make a concerted effort to make a place for itself in the state. They began with targeting the government on corruption - the Saradha chit fund scam being in the spotlight. But soon realised that corruption did not seem to really matter to the voters. It was considered as a part and parcel of politics and not too many cared as long as their needs were being met. So then the BJP found another agenda - Hindutva. And that struck a chord. For perhaps the first time ever, religion found a place in the recent electoral contest of Bengal. Playing on 'minority appeasement' fears, the BJP consolidated the anti-Mamata votes.
It has been eight years since didi took over. Bengal is still looking for catch up with the rest of India. It's about time it did. Industry needs to revive, the youth need jobs, not as party workers but real jobs in a real economy. Capital needs to be rebuilt, decaying educational institutes need to reinvent themselves, and the state needs to inspire confidence both internally and in investors outside.
Mamata Banerjee needs to be careful. Bengal takes time, but then change happens. Red made way for a tidal wave of blue and white. Assembly elections are due in 2021. Will it be saffron this time?
(Ekta is a columnist and a writer. She represents India on multiple forums in the European Union on human right campaigns, gender related issues and is working closely with the EU to strengthen ties between the two countries. She is also a Chartered Accountant and an MBA from IIM Calcutta)
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