BJP failed to capture West Bengal as Modi-Shah duo have zero knowledge of Bengali ethos
Together with the politics of hatred, the state has rejected cultural and social coercion and risen up against insults heaped on a woman leader by powerful male politicians
After Mamata Banerjee was denied a victory certificate from her constituency Nandigram, Union Home Minister Amit Shah made a telling remark. “Now she should go to the governor and resign”, he quipped.
This comment coming from the self-styled Chanakya of BJP really put a question mark on his political acumen. Resignation is not the only alternative before her. She may approach the judiciary. She can force the EC to recount the votes. But one thing is clear: it would spoil the image of the EC.
Ever since Shah became the Home Minister, he has launched a vitriolic campaign against Mamata. Like in any other state, the BJP performed well in 2019 Lok Sabha election but ironically he mistook it as the peoples’ endorsement of the party’s style of politics. He resorted to the same mode of electioneering in 2021 Assembly elections.
Repeating the 2019 model of campaigning was his biggest mistake. Through his body language, he wanted to send the message that Bengal is a lost case and its people are worthless. He undermined the Bengali culture though for political compulsions he parroted some quotes. These were not enough to reach out to the Bengali people.
If only he or his mentor Narendra Modi would have understood the ethical aspect of the Bengali culture, they would not have dared to import the Gujarati or Maharashtrian mode of the Hindutva and hybrid culture.
As both these leaders are not politicians in the true sense of the term and depend on muscle power and the mercenary strength of the State machinery, the people are scared of putting their personal views, which in most of the cases have been of divergent nature, before them.
The same thing happened in the case of Bengali BJP leaders. They know that traditionally the Bengalis have been the worshippers of Ma Durga, but they could not muster the courage to tell the two leaders on their face not to play up the slogan of ‘Jai Sri Ram’, which does not reflect the Bengali cultural ethos.
There is a famous adage in Urdu, “Nim hakim khatarejaan” (quake endangers life). These leaders were superficially briefed by their speech writers about the legacy of Tagore, Nazrul and other Bengali legends. The leaders parroted some lines from their writings without properly understanding the proper implication. While addressing rallies they put out half-baked narratives. These proved disastrous and hurt the prospects of their party.
Autocrats usually have no patience to listen to suggestions. They want the people to believe what they say as the sermons of the rulers. Modi uttering “Didi-o-Didi” resonated a lewd feel. This was disliked by Bengali women who perceived it as an insult. The women were at a loss to make out how could a leader who claims to be the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ stoop so low and insult women.
For the women of Bengal, Mamata Banerjee symbolises the prestige and honour of women, cutting across caste, class and communal lines. The Bengali women, whether Hindu or Muslim, took Modi’s jibe as an insult to women. This primarily was the reason that they voted en masse for Mamata. Bengal reposed faith in its “daughter” and paved the way for a resounding victory for the Trinamool Congress.
Together with the politics of hatred, the state has rejected cultural and social coercion and risen up against insults heaped on a woman leader by powerful male politicians.
At a time when Modi is facing the worst nature of rebuff from academics and intellectuals, at both the national and international fora, his accusations against Mamata did not find appreciation from the people. A comparison of his performance with that of Mamata weighed less.
A number of other holes were visible in his claims. Modi has miserably failed to empower the poor and Dalits. His stand on Right to Food and MGNREGA has been severely criticised. His failure to come forward to help the labourers and daily wage earners during the first phase of COVID had broken the myth of his being the friend of the poor. People have come to believe the assertion that he was out to sell the country to benefit a few rich friends.
Modi and Shah had turned suspect in the eyes of the people of West Bengal the day they formally launched their campaign in the state. Both claimed that the BJP would be getting around 220 seats. In fact, there were very few takers of this loud claim. The reason was that the people of the state had come to realise their nefarious design to split the citizens on linguistic and sub-nationality basis.
No doubt, united Bengal had witnessed the worst form of communal riots in 1946. But since then, the people of the state enjoyed only one identity, that is of being Bengali. The Bengali language and literature came to symbolise the Bengali cultural ethos. This was for the first time during an election that the BJP was trying to reignite the communal hatred.
No doubt the BJP managed to divide some Hindus on the lines of non-Bengali and Bengali Hindus, but it did not succeed in polarising the Hindus as it managed to do in other states. An analysis of the votes polled by the BJP would underline that the neo-middle class non-Bengalis belonging to the OBC, Brahmins hailing from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and a section of Marwaris and Gujaratis voted for BJP.
A major section of non-Bengalis who have already been assimilated with the original Bengalis and bhadralok voted for TMC.
Modi and Shah based on their utopian notions had claimed that they would win 220 seats. But the BJP has failed to cross double digits. The BJP was dependent on TMC turncoats. In a state where the party has no ground level support base, they had no alternative but to depend on them. Shah rehabilitated them even after being aware that were involved in corruption and were hated by the people for their ineptitude.
Modi was looking forward to install a BJP government led by these leaders. The electoral performance of Trinamool Congress turncoats, who defected to the BJP just months ahead of the assembly elections, have mostly been disappointing.
Views are personal