Bengal: Sorry State Of BJP Workers In The Face Of Widespread Violence Raises Questions On Party Leadership

Bengal: Sorry State Of BJP Workers In The Face Of Widespread Violence Raises Questions On Party Leadership BJP President J P Nadda meets the family of a BJP worker killed in post-poll violence in West Bengal.  (JP Nadda/Twitter)
Snapshot
  • Many functionaries and supporters of the BJP have started warning that the timid response of the party leadership to Trinamool’s attacks on BJP workers will lead to a deluge of desertions and resignations from the party.

Thousands of BJP workers across Bengal have borne the brunt of the Trinamool’s victory-induced terror since Sunday late afternoon when it became apparent that Mamata Banerjee’s party would sweep the polls.

Murderous Trinamool goons attacked BJP offices all over the state, starting off with the one at Arambagh in Hooghly, and then went on to raid and loot homes of BJP workers, assaulting them and even killing seven of them, molesting and allegedly raping womenfolk, and creating mayhem.

Countless BJP workers, along with their families, have escaped to safer places and taken shelter in houses of friends, relatives and even the BJP state party headquarters in Kolkata.

Many from Cooch Behar have crossed over to the neighbouring Dhubri district in Assam and are being sheltered in relief camps that have been set up there.

Violence and gore has been part of Bengal’s political landscape since the late 1960s and this latest round of murderousness is no aberration.

In fact, it was apprehended that BJP workers and their families would be targeted in the event of a Trinamool victory; it was the scale of vengeance that has stunned many.

But what was completely unexpected was the complete abandonment of the embattled party worker by BJP leaders.

Apart from issuing statements condemning the violence, none of the saffron party leaders did anything to protect the thousands of workers who, braving threats and dire warnings of retribution from the Trinamool, had worked for the BJP.

For nearly 48 hours since the mayhem began, the BJP leadership — central as well as state — did nothing. Attacks on the homes of a couple of party candidates who had lost also failed to stir the party leaders into action.

The only ‘action’ on the part of the Union Government — a letter from the Union Home Ministry to the state administration on Monday asking for a report on post-poll violence in Bengal — can at best be described as routine, ineffective and timid.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankar did summon DGP P. Neerajnayan, state home secretary H.K. Dwivedi and Kolkata Police Commissioner Soumen Mitra and asked them to prevent attacks on BJP workers and offices, but such actions are of no consequence.

That the Governor’s instructions to the state administration made no difference was borne out by the fact that attacks on BJP workers not only continued throughout Monday evening and Tuesday, but also increased in intensity.

At a time when the state BJP leadership and the BJP’s Bengal ‘minders’ who were hogging the limelight during the high-voltage election campaign should have rushed to stand beside their embattled party workers, they kept themselves confined to the safety and air-conditioned comfort of the homes.

“They (the leaders) only issued statements from the safety of their homes or the state party headquarters when they should have come to stand beside us and given us the confidence and courage to resist the attacks on us,” said Paresh Ranjan Pal, an embittered BJP worker from Kasba in south Kolkata where Trinamool goons went on a rampage on Sunday evening and Monday.

The abandonment of their own workers by BJP leaders is best exemplified by a tweet from Union Minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo who, in response to desperate pleas (on twitter) from help from besieged party workers, said he would not be able to venture into the troubled areas since his vehicle would be damaged!

The junior union minister, who contested and lost from the Tollygunge Assembly seat in the just-concluded polls, deleted the tweet after being condemned and ridiculed (see all comments here) by netizens.

“Another ‘leader’ from Delhi who contested the elections this time and returned to Delhi immediately after the polls were over posted a video message condemning the violence on party workers in the constituency where he contested from. That was shameful! He should have stayed back in that constituency and stood beside his party workers who worked for him, or at least rushed back from Delhi after the attacks started,” said a state BJP functionary who did not want to be named.

State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh and other senior leaders, including Bengal BJP ‘minders’ Kailash Vijayvargiya and Arvind Menon, were also condemned and ridiculed for their inaction.

Photos of all these leaders rushing to the Kolkata airport on Tuesday afternoon to receive BJP national president J.P.Nadda and then accompanying him on his visit to houses of workers who were attacked or killed did the rounds of social media and attracted scathing comments.

“They had time to receive their party president at the airport, but didn’t have time to rush to places where party workers were being attacked since Sunday evening. This is completely unacceptable,” said Parul Maity, a BJP functionary from Arambagh in Hooghly whose house was attacked by Trinamool goons.

Nadda landed in Kolkata Tuesday afternoon and went to visit homes and family members of workers who had faced the Trinamool’s vengeance.

But even this drew flak. “What is the use in visiting the homes of karyakartas who have been attacked? The central leadership should have taken strong action as soon as the attacks on us started Sunday evening,” said Niranjan Haldar, a BJP worker from Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas where a party member, Haran Adhikari, was murdered.

“Offering mere solace to the bereaved family members as Naddaji had done is not enough. The party leadership should have protected us. They run the government at the Centre, couldn’t they do anything? Don’t they have any power? Or are they scared of using those powers?” asked an angry Adhikari.

The central BJP leadership was also not spared on social media. More so after Prime Minister Narendra Modi only called up the Bengal governor and expressed his ‘concern’ and ‘anguish’ over post-poll violence in Bengal.

Modi’s response is being perceived as too defensive, timid and ineffective. “One would have expected the PM to express outrage over the murders of and attacks on his party workers. Merely expressing ‘concern’ shows a lack of concern for the plight of party workers and his ‘anguish’ conveys helplessness. That is not expected of him,” said a disgruntled Biplab Seal, a functionary of the party’s south Kolkata unit.

BJP functionaries are also raising questions over the absence of a robust response from the central party leadership which announced a nationwide dharna on Wednesday to protest the attacks on party workers in Bengal.

Nadda, and other central party leaders, have gone to great lengths to emphasise that the BJP’s response to Trinamool’s aggression and attacks would be ‘democratic’ and ‘Constitutional’.

“They (the central leaders) should instead have warned the Trinamool leadership that it would be made to pay a very heavy price for attacking BJP workers. They should have used very strong words and their body language should have been very aggressive,” said a senior state BJP leader who did not want to be named.

This leader, who had questioned and cautioned against allotment of party tickets to defectors from Trinamool and to ‘celebrities’, opined that the Union government should have held out the threat of strong action and even imposition of President’s Rule.

“When the Trinamool is acting undemocratically and unconstitutionally, the BJP’s response cannot be timid. Declaring that we will act democratically and in a gentlemanly manner only exposes our impotence. It disheartens and demoralises our party cadres,” he said.

Many in the BJP are comparing the party leadership’s docile response to Trinamool aggression to Mamata Banerjee’s days in the opposition.

“She (Mamata Banerjee) led from the front and even took blows on her head. She faced police lathis and fiercely protested attacks by CPI(M) on her party cadres. She took to the streets every time such incidents happened and fearlessly clashed with the police,” said Tapasi Sengup of the BJP Mahila Morcha.

“Mamata Banerjee had 60 MLAs and just 8 MPs in 2001. She had only 30 MLAs and she was the lone MP from her party in 2006. But that did not stop her from being very aggressive against the CPI(M) and standing up to Marxist terror. We (the BJP) have 77 MLAs and 18 MPs now and look at out pathetic response to Trinamool’s aggression,” pointed out the senior BJP leader.

Many functionaries and supporters of the BJP have started warning that the timid response of the party leadership to Trinamool’s attacks on BJP workers will lead to a deluge of desertions and resignations from the party.

Going by Mamata Banerjee’s past record, the attacks on BJP workers is expected to decrease in intensity but continue. After winning the state Assembly elections in 2011, the Trinamool not only decimated the CPI(M)-led Left Front physically, but also its own ally, the Congress.

CPI(M) cadres were hounded, threatened, attacked, killed or driven out of their homes. Most distanced themselves from the party and even resigned, while many others joined the Trinamool to save themselves.

The Trinamool did the same to Congress workers despite the fact that the two parties had fought the 2011 polls as allies.

There is no reason to believe that the Trinamool, after posting such a resounding victory, will be charitable towards the BJP and allow it to exist in Bengal.

Thus, given the fact that the BJP leadership will be unable to protect its workers, the saffron party will surely be staring at a severe erosion in its ranks.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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