With the Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading it, the Bharatiya Janata Party under the patronage of RSS have found a base in most of North and West India. West Bengal is one of the few states which have held its fort against them.
But with the many low-intensity riots which have gripped the state, can Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, following the socialistic ideology, stand strong and combat the accusations against her and save it from the clutches of BJP?
One of the best studied examples is the aftermath of a communal riot in Dhulagarh in December 2016, which BJP has tried to capitalize on.
Genesis of riots :
It all started when on Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, a procession clashed with young men from the neighborhood gathered near a community club. The incident sparked a riot that spanned for the next two days, during which both Hindu and Muslim areas faced attacks. Although the clashes were low-intensity, they left a deep imprint on the residents because the area had never witnessed a communal violence earlier.
Residents in nearby adjacent villages are convinced that the riots were organized by the Tirnamool Congress. Speaking to Scroll.in, Biswanath Mondal whose house, grocery store was targeted, says, “Why else would the police stay away as Muslim mobs attacked this area?”
Consequence of storm :
The riot has altered the area’s political landscape in a huge way. Today, many Hindus see the party’s actions as Muslim appeasement. As a reaction, the BJP’s popularity is on the rise. At Annapurna club, a 15-foot pole carries two triangular saffron flags. Markets in Dewanghat and Dhulagarh have the BJP’s flag overshadowing the Trinamool’s tricolour. An electric pole even flies the square saffron flag of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the BJP’s student wing.
After the communal violence erupted, the BJP made sure to highlight the breakdown in law and order in the state nationally. TV channels were screaming at the top of their lungs and giving prime time coverage. Leaders from around the nation gathered support for what was supposedly an attack on Hinduism. The party even sent a three-MP delegation to visit Dhulagarh a week after the riot broke out, but they were prevented from entering the area by the administration.
Muslims and their rock solid faith :
Even after the incident, many Muslims still have faith. “We are happy with the Trinamool’s actions during the riot,” said Baki Billa Lashkar, whose family runs an embroidery unit, a common mode of employment for the area’s Muslims. Some others are angry at what they see as the state’s disproportionate action against their community. Israfil Mallick complains about his brother, Trinamool member of Dhulagarh Panchayat Ismail Mallick, not getting bail because of the police’s vindictiveness. “They simply came and arrested Muslims but took no action against the Hindus who burnt Muslim shops,” Mallick said.
Such complaints against the Trinamool, though, have not resulted in any loss of support for the party among the Muslims. “The Muslims here are completely behind the Trinamool,” says a Bablu, a Muslim. “The Hindus, though, are looking at the BJP. We can see them support the TMC by day and BJP by night.
Trinamool is a government unlike the BJP is based on the votes of both communities. Any such altercations and incidents are alarming news for it. And hence, they cracked down with force. Nearly 60 people were arrested, many of whom have still not got bail. The administration did not even spare Trinamool members of the panchayat. Two of them have been in jail for eight months, along with the husband of the panchayat’s deputy chairman, also from the Trinamool.
While there is widespread support for the BJP among Hindus now, what this will mean in terms of the party’s actual political performance is difficult to say. Moitri Mondal of Banerjee Para had her home attacked in the riot. She supports the BJP but is perplexed by its inaction. “We are with you, we are saying we want a BJP organization here. We are ready to support the BJP,” Mondal said. “But why don’t they come here and visit us?”
Dhulagarh Panchayat’s lone BJP member Sanat Naskar admitted that the support his party is getting now might not translate into votes at the next panchayat election in 2018. “People want the BJP in their hearts, but the TMC is pressurizing them,” he said. “We cannot use the 2018 result to judge the BJP in this area.”
As of now, it is too early to forecast a situation where the BJP adds another state to its kitty. With the current blow that it has received on the hands of Ahmed Patel, coupled with the various national and local problems faced by it, the BJP sure has a lot to recover.
Edited by: Mohammed Faraaz (20)
Student @ National Institute of Technology Warangal