Explained: Trinamool’s Bid To Divide Hindu Votes By Pitching ‘Hindutva’ Outfit Against BJP

Explained: Trinamool’s Bid To Divide Hindu Votes By Pitching ‘Hindutva’ Outfit Against BJP West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. (Illustration: Swarajya Magazine)
Snapshot
  • While it is yet to be seen how much damage the Hindu Samhati’s proposed political arm can inflict on the BJP’s electoral prospects, it remains a fact that the Samhati’s credibility has taken a severe beating.

Hindu Samhati, a self-proclaimed Hindutva outfit in Bengal founded in 2008 by a former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh (RSS) pracharak, has announced its decision to contest the 2021 assembly polls in the state against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

This has triggered a tide of condemnation on social media with hundreds of people accusing the outfit of exposing its true colours as a ‘B’ team of the Trinamool.

Hindu Samhati president Debtanu Bhattacharjee told Swarajya that the organisation will float a new political outfit before Kali Puja (in mid-November) and will contest the 2021 polls against the BJP.

The organisation, long suspected of having links with the Trinamool, says that the BJP has let down Bengali Hindus.

“The BJP’s focus in Bengal is on non-Bengali Hindus and Bengali Hindus have been pushed to the margins. We can’t allow this to happen and so we have decided to launch a political party to take on the BJP,” said Bhattacharjee.

The Hindu Samhati was founded by Tapan Ghosh (he passed away in July this year). He quit the RSS in 2007 after spending 32 years in the nationalist organisation.

The Hindu Samhati started working in the villages and small towns of Bengal and initiated ghar-wapsi and other programmes. It also emerged as a powerful voice to safeguard interests of Hindus in Bengal.

Ghosh was initially a trenchant critic of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee’s appeasement of Muslims.

But Ghosh was also critical of the RSS, which he accused of “lacking in commitment and courage”, and the BJP which he charged with “letting down Hindus”.

The Hindu Samhati founder had, however, been all praise for Banerjee’s ‘development’ and had, very controversially, given her “seven out of ten” for “ushering in progress and development in the state”.

Ghosh started praising Banerjee from 2015-16. He once said: “If Hindus can bargain more from Mamata, why should Hindus support the BJP unconditionally? We have to bargain and get the best deal for Hindus from politicians, and need to support whichever politician offers the most to Hindus. If Mamata Banerjee offers the most, we will support her”.

The BJP, and the Left, had often accused the Hindu Samhati of being the “Hindutva wing” of the Trinamool. “The Hindu Samhati has been co-opted by the Trinamool to divide Hindu votes,” said a top BJP leader.

Former Lok Sabha MP and Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammad Salim also accused the Hindu Samhati of being the Hindutva face of the Trinamool.

“The Trinamool is propping up the Hindu Samhati to counter the backlash from Hindus against Mamata Banerjee’s blatant Muslim appeasement,” he said.

The Hindu Samhati had often mobilised Hindus in rural and semi-urban Bengal to fight Muslim fundamentalism. The outfit has often been accused of having a hand in many Hindu-Muslim riots in recent years.

The Hindu Samhati’s aggressive posturing in favour of Hindus and its pursuance of an overt Hindutva agenda won it considerable support from Hindus in the villages and small towns of Bengal.

But Tapan Ghosh’s antipathy towards the BJP was not shared by many in the organisation. In the 2016 assembly polls, many Hindu Samhati members worked for the BJP at an individual level.

In 2018, an angry Tapan Ghosh quit the organisation in a huff. A few months before that, he had quit as its president to “make way for young leaders to emerge”.

While quitting the Samhati, Ghosh accused Samhati office-bearers of “falling into the BJP’s trap” and acting as foot soldiers of the BJP. He also called for disbanding the organisation he founded.

Ghosh had said at that time the Hindu Samhati had failed to remain apolitical. “Politics tends to divide Hindus along socio-economic lines. Hindus need an organisation that will represent all Hindus — the rich and poor, Dalits and Brahmins,” he had said.

But Samhati insiders say that Ghosh was very upset with many Samhati functionaries and workers who were openly working for the BJP instead of the Trinamool as he wanted them to.

At the time Ghosh quit the organisation, Samhati president Debtanu Bhattacharjee (Ghosh’s successor) had refuted Ghosh’s charge that the organisation had not remained apolitical.

“We are apolitical and will remain so. In fact, we are now trying to steer our organisation away from its inclination towards Trinamool. We will be equidistant from all political parties,” Bhattacharjee had said.

Devdutt Majhi, who had been Hindu Samhati vice-president since its inception, and quit the organisation in 2018, told Swarajya that the Samhati’s tilt towards the Trinamool started in 2014 and became very pronounced by 2016.

“In 2017, it (the Samhati) started bargaining with both the Trinamool and the BJP, and that was when I started getting disillusioned,” said Majhi, who has since founded Singha Bahini that has worked to rescue Hindu girls who have been victims of ‘love jihad’.

Samhati president Bhattacharjee told Swarajya that his organisation supported the BJP wholeheartedly in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“But we have realised that the BJP is also playing the politics of appeasement and has adopted the Congress culture of compromising and trying to project itself as secular,” he said.

Many accuse the Hindu Samhati of speaking in the Trinamool’s voice when it says that the BJP in Bengal is a party of and for non-Bengali Hindus.

“This is exactly what the Trinamool says in order to divide Hindus and by echoing this, the Hindu Samhati has revealed it is a Trinamool sidekick,” said BJP’s Jyotirmoy Mandal.

Bhattacharjee now echoes his mentor Tapan Ghosh on supporting whichever party offers the best ‘deal’.

“If the Trinamool says tomorrow it will give up its policy of Muslim appeasement and promises development for Hindus, we will support the Trinamool. And if the BJP can make a better offer, we will support the BJP,” he said.

Bhattacharjee says that the Hindu Samhati is strong in at least 30 assembly seats. The new political party that the Samhati is planning to float will put up candidates in about 45 seats where the BJP’s chances of winning are bright.

But the BJP is not very bothered. “People are intelligent and can make out who is behind the Hindu Samhati. People will not waste their votes on the new party that this organisation is planning to launch,” said the BJP leader.

While it is yet to be seen how much damage the Hindu Samhati’s proposed political arm can inflict on the BJP’s electoral prospects, it remains a fact that the Samhati’s credibility has taken a severe beating.

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