Rise of Hindutva in Bengal ... Are we witnessing the beginning of Mamata Banerjee's decline?

New Delhi, News24 Bureau, May 23: Apart from the magnitude of the BJP's victory, the other remarkable aspect of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is the inroads the saffron party has made into the TMC fortress of West Bengal.

With the BJP stunning all and sundry by leading in as many as 19 seats, of which it should win a surprising 15, it is a massive jump from the two seats at the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections.

The Trinamool Congress (TMC) led by the firebrand Mamata Banerjee has been left with a vastly reduced tally of around 24.

The election result is bound to shake up the political equations in the state and should leave Banerjee and her TMC cohorts worried about what awaits them at the 2021 assembly elections.

It is not that Mamata has failed on all fronts as Chief Minister. On the contrary, she has done quite a decent job on economic and development front.

When the TMC overthrew the decadent  Left Front government after a long and bloody struggle, Mamata became the chief minister of a state which had deteriorated extensively in all aspects after 34 years of leftist misrule.

What makes matters worse, there was a Maoist insurgency in the districts bordering Jharkhand and Odisha while the old demand of a separate state of Gorkhaland had reared its head once again in the ice-capped mountains in the north.

The newly minted chief minister did well to successfully tackle both problems and gradually brought about a significant economic transformation which brought about positive change in both rural and urban areas.

Most villages in West Bengal are still desperately poor, but there has been a noticeable improvement in education, health facilities as well as access to water and electricity - which are essential to the survival of the farmer.

Even the state highways are in much better condition.

The Eastern Metropolitan Bypass-Rajarhat stretch in now totally unrecognisable, dotted as it is with offices of innumerable multinational companies.

By comparing the condition the state was in back in 2011 and its present situation, the average layman will conclude without an iota of doubt that it is Mamata, and only Mamata who will be the undisputed choice of each and every voter in the state.

But discontent brews in Bengal. It hangs like a dark cloud over the villages and mohallas.

What could be the reason behind this discontent, despite all the good work done by the TMC government?

The main reason is the unabashed appeasement of the minority community.

The left front government had perfected the art of allowing illegal migrants from Bangladesh - mostly Muslims - to settle in the state and turning them into vote banks.

When the TMC assumed power, the Muslims transferred their allegiance to the new ruling party which adopted the left front's policy and racked it up by several gears.

When the central government announced that Rohingya refugees from Myanmar will not be allowed to enter India, several Muslim groups aided and abetted by local TMC units allowed these people to cross the porous Bangladesh border, arranged official documents like Aadhar cards for them and helped them to settle in the country.

As a result, today the Muslims officially constitute 27 percent of West Bengal's population. The actual figure could well be over 30 percent.

In order to keep this sizeable vote bank in her control, Mamata has kept up a steady attempt to woo them. 

The chief minister has sanctioned state grants to the innumerable madrasas and maulvis in the state. The state government also postponed Durga Puja immersion to facilitate Muharram proccessions.

All these have built up an impression that the TMC government is unfairly favouring the minorities.

To make matters worse, several communal flare-ups across the state have seen the administrative machinery favouring the minority community.

The riots in Basirhat, Dhulagarh, Mandir Bazar and Malda which saw attacks on Hindus with the police refusing to take action has angered even Hindu cadre of the TMC.

Several TMC cadre in the affected has even decided to switch allegiance to the BJP.

This has allowed the BJP to gain a foothold in the state by exploiting its time tested Hindutva card.

A look at the vote percentages of the TMC and the BJP from the just concluded Lok Sabha elections make it clear that while the former has garnered almost the entire Muslim vote and a small percentage of the Hindu vote, a large majority of Hindus have opted to vote for the latter.

Apart from this, a big portion of the former left front cadre and their traditional voters have opted to give their loyalty to the BJP since it is the only power in the state which can challenge the might of the TMC.

Infighting between its various factions has also hurt the TMC. This has prompted senior leader Mukul Roy, who is the brain behind Mamata's rise, to leave the party and join the BJP.  This has been a big loss for the TMC.

Mukul and Mamata had plotted and planned the TMC's gradual rise to power over the years. He is now doing the same for the BJP.

There is no other leader in the TMC who can match Roy's political acumen. Mamata has not helped matters by unduly favouring her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the leader of the TMC's youth wing.

With the Hindu vote in Bengal switching firmly to the BJP, a strong showing by the saffron party in the 2021 state polls may prompt some of the TMC leaders to revolt against Abhishek's disproportionate influence and - dare we say it - even against Mamata herself.

Another big problem facing the TMC is retaining the loyalty of its cadre at the local level. While the cadre in many Hindu dominated areas is angry with the perceived pro-Muslim attitude, the BJP has stepped in with its deep pockets to try and buy their loyalty.

There have been reliable reports that the BJP has offered huge sums of money to TMC  local committees across the state. But many cadres refrained from openly supporting the BJP fearing violent retribution from the TMC  and the state machinery after the Lok Sabha polls.

But the state elections in 2021 will be a different cup of tea and unlike in 2019, many TMC cadre may show open support for the BJP.

Will, that lead to the fall of the TMC regime and the end to Mamata's colourful political career?

Let us wait and see.

News24 Bureau

Photo: Google Image