Bengal: BJP’s Anti-Corruption Rally Against Trinamool Signals A Strong Comeback Bid And Growing Support

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Sep 14, 2022 02:12 PM +05:30 IST
Bengal: BJP’s Anti-Corruption Rally Against Trinamool Signals A Strong Comeback Bid And Growing SupportThe BJP rally.
Snapshot
  • A good beginning has been made and if the BJP can capitalise on the momentum generated by Tuesday’s rally, it can reverse its fortunes in the state. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has, finally, a good reason to cheer in Bengal. The ‘march to Nabanna’ (state secretariat) call given by the party on Tuesday (13 September) to highlight rampant corruption in the state evoked an encouraging response. 

BJP workers and supporters who participated in the rally put up a spirited show and fought pitched battles on Kolkata’s streets with policemen who had displayed uncharacteristic brutality in tackling the rallyists.

The fact that thousands of BJP cadres, many of them clad in saffron and chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans that Mamata Banerjee doesn’t approve of, made it to the rally despite the statewide crackdown by the police since Sunday to foil the rally is extremely significant. 

Tuesday’s rally may well be an inflection point in the fortunes of the BJP which had been floundering in Bengal after the last year’s assembly elections. 

Huge turnout at BJP rally.
Huge turnout at BJP rally.

The primary reasons for this are: 

  • Good Attendance At The Rally

This is significant given the atmosphere of fear created by the Trinamool in the state. After sweeping last year’s assembly polls, Trinamool cadres unleashed horrific violence on BJP workers and supporters. 

Thousands of BJP cadres and supporters were attacked and driven out of their homes, many women raped and some were brutally murdered. 

This led to a huge number of workers dissociating themselves from the party and even joining the Trinamool to protect their lives and properties.

The Trinamool’s attacks on BJP cadres and supporters have been relentless and any affiliation with the BJP invites a brutal response even now. 

But despite this, and knowing that they will become targets of retribution by revengeful Trinamool functionaries, thousands of BJP workers and supporters reached Kolkata to participate in the rally. 

What also needs to be noted here is that many more times the number of those who participated in Tuesday’s rally were thwarted from converging on Kolkata by the state police which mounted vigil at all railway stations and bus terminals to stop BJP workers from travelling to the state capital. 

All this signifies: 

Resurgence of confidence among BJP cadres: BJP workers are overcoming their fear of Trinamool and mustering the courage once again to stand up to the TMC. 

BJP functionaries returning to the party fold: The growing confidence of the BJP workers is also due to a swelling of their ranks. According to ground-level reports, many who had distanced themselves from the BJP or left the party after last year’s elections have started returning to the party. 

Restoration of faith in party leadership: The exodus of cadres from the party was triggered by the party leadership’s perceived failure to protect them from Trinamool brutalities and also the leadership’s inability to hold Mamata Banerjee to task for the horrific political violence in the state.

But it now seems that the BJP leadership has succeeded, to a considerable extent, in regaining the trust of the party cadres and supporters.  

  • Growing mass support for the BJP: A lot of the phenomena mentioned above can be attributed to growing mass support for the BJP. Workers of any party have their ears to the ground and can detect shifts in public mood and support. And they (the workers) also act accordingly. 

It can be said with a reasonable degree of certainty that the growing confidence of BJP cadres to take on and challenge the Trinamool is based on a steadily increasing support for the BJP among Bengal’s masses, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas. 

This growing support for the BJP has given party cadres the confidence to openly associate themselves with the saffron party once again. 

  • Increasing disgust with the Trinamool over corruption: The woes of Bengal’s long-suffering masses in Bengal have been compounded by Trinamool’s extortion and corruption.

Much more than city dwellers, people living in the villages and mofussil areas are victims of the Trinamool’s ‘cut-money’ culture, extortion and corruption and are directly affected by it. 

The amassing of huge properties by even lower level Trinamool functionaries and their lavish lifestyles has triggered a growing disgust among the masses. 

The public perception about Trinamool being a corrupt party was compounded in recent months by the arrest of senior Trinamool leaders and recoveries of mounds of cash, valuables, land deeds and documents proving their ownership of lands, industrial units, apartments, hotels and resorts from them.

Even the distribution of the many doles announced by Banerjee is marred by corruption. The demand for a cut of the doles by Trinamool functionaries from the lakhs of beneficiaries is a widespread and well-known practice. 

In addition to all this, largescale corruption and misappropriation of funds that marked and marred centrally-sponsored schemes like the rural employment guarantee programme, housing for poor and rural road construction has resulted in the Union government stopping disbursal of funds for these schemes. That has directly affected the masses and made them angry.

  • Rising unemployment and Bengal’s flailing economy have started to bite: Despite tall claims by Banerjee, the stark truth is that unemployment is rising in Bengal and the state’s debt-burdened economy is floundering. 

Jobs are scarce and with Banerjee’s failure to attract investments, especially big-ticket investments, unemployment is destined to rise. 

The state’s ‘small economy’ (or ‘loose change’ economy) — a small amount of money in circulation leading to disguised unemployment, stagnation and rising frustration among masses over their inability to meet their rising aspirations — is hurting. 

Participants at the BJP rally.
Participants at the BJP rally.

The lakhs of people from Bengal working outside the state carry back tales of the affluence, ease of living and freedoms they enjoy in those states. And this fuels anger among the masses over the state of affairs in Bengal. 

  • Backlash over Banerjee’s Muslim appeasement has translated into support for BJP: The adverse effects of Banerjee’s blatant appeasement of Muslims has started to show, especially in the hinterlands. 

This appeasement has resulted in growing assertion by Muslims who have started punching much above their numerical strength and trying to establish their dominance in the rural and semi-urban areas. 

This has adversely affected Hindus. Vote bank politics practised by the Trinamool means that Muslims are accorded priority in welfare schemes, jobs and favours doled out by the ruling party. 

This has led to long-simmering anger amongst Hindus spilling out in the open. And this anger is slowly translating into support for the BJP. 

All this is not to say that the BJP is out of the woods as yet in Bengal and it will be smooth sailing for the saffron party from now on. The party needs to do a lot more to emerge as a strong alternative to the Trinamool and unseat Banerjee from power. 

But a good beginning has been made and if the BJP can capitalise on the momentum generated by Tuesday’s rally, it can reverse its fortunes in the state. 

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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