This Is Why The Centre Needs To Intervene To Stop Spiralling Political Violence In Bengal  

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jul 14, 2020 03:20 PM +05:30 IST
This Is Why The Centre Needs To Intervene To Stop Spiralling Political Violence In Bengal  BJP MLA Debendranath Roy
  • Bengal is set to be bloodied over the next few months if the propensity to use violence as a political weapon is not curbed.

The suspicious death of a BJP legislator in Bengal has brought into focus, once again, the shameful saga of political violence in the state.

This violence will only intensify in the run up to the Assembly elections next year, and it is imperative for the Union government to step in to save more lives being lost.

The Trinamool, desperate to preserve its turf in the face of an aggressive challenge from the BJP, will resort to its time-tested tactics of intimidation, assault and murder of BJP functionaries to stave off the political threat.

Bengal is set to be bloodied over the next few months if the propensity to use violence as a political weapon is not curbed.

The highly suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the MLA, Debendra Nath Roy, provides ample indication that Trinamool cadres will get more audacious and brutal in order to intimidate the Opposition, especially the BJP which has emerged as the principal Opposition in the state.

Though the police maintain that Roy committed suicide and claimed that a suicide note was recovered from his pocket, the legislator’s family members and associate strongly dispute that.

Forensic experts who have seen the photos and videos of his body hanging from a rope with his hand tied to the same rope also dispute the suicide theory.

The BJP has, expectedly, hit the streets in protest over the ‘killing’ and a bandh has been called in North Bengal on Tuesday (14 July). The party has demanded a CBI probe.

A few senior leaders of the party met President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan to brief him on the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar tweeted that the suicide theory advocated by the police ‘smacks of a coverup’ and ‘police prejudice’. He demanded a fair probe into the death.

But the Trinamool is not likely to be fazed by bandhs or statements by the Governor.

The coming months will be an intense struggle for existence for the ruling party and it will leave no stone unturned in literally beating off the BJP’s advance.

Nothing but stern intervention by the Union government will deter the Trinamool from continuing with and intensifying physical violence against political opponents.

Law and order, admittedly, is a state subject. But there are a few Constitutionally-sanctioned ways the Centre can intervene to ensure that the rule of the law prevails in the state without, of course, taking recourse to Article 356 and promulgating President’s Rule in the state.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs can send advisories to the state government every time Trinamool goons target Opposition functionaries. Such advisories can be sent under Article 256 and Article 355 of the Constitution.

The Trinamool government in the state does not bother with Constitutional niceties and is most likely to cock a snook at the MHA.

But a constant stream of such advisories will rattle the Trinamool and force it to go on the defensive.

The MHA should also dispatch fact-finding teams every time an Opposition functionary is targeted by Trinamool goons.

Once again, such teams are most likely to be cold-shouldered by the highly-politicised state bureaucracy which has become completely subservient to the Trinamool.

But this step will serve to mount pressure on the state bureaucracy and keep it in check to some extent.

Also, such aggressive administrative measures will put the state bureaucracy on notice and discourage officials from acting as the Trinamool functionaries that they have become in Bengal.

The Union government should also up the ante and send Union Ministers to Bengal to highlight acts of political violence perpetrated by the Trinamool on the Opposition.

The Ministers visiting the victims and their families and also scenes of such violence will instill a sense of confidence in the Opposition ranks.

Media coverage of such visits and strong statements by the Ministers will earn the Trinamool a lot of bad press.

In the run up to the Assembly elections, that will cost the Trinamool at least a section of urban votes. And that will keep Trinamool under a lot of pressure.

At the same time, the BJP has to go for the jugular by stepping up its agitations and protests against political violence.

It should approach the courts seeking court-monitored or CBI probes into acts of violence against its functionaries.

It should file a slew of petitions every time such violence occurs.

All that will put the Trinamool, and especially its volatile supremo Mamata Banerjee, under immense pressure.

If the Trinamool is to be compared to an army, Banerjee is the General and the next rung of leaders are all Colonels commanding their individual battalions.

The absence of the crucial intervening ranks (between the General and the Colonels) makes the Trinamool extremely vulnerable, especially during a crucial (electoral) battle that will be a do-to-die fight for survival.

A volatile and mercurial General put under immense pressure is most likely to flounder and commit fatal errors, and that is exactly what will happen if the Union government and the BJP mount administrative, Constitutional, legal and political challenges against the Trinamool.

Political violence against the Opposition has gained momentum and will intensify in the weeks preceding the polls.

To prevent that, the Union government has to prepare a detailed blueprint for intensive and extensive deployment of Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) like CRPF, BSF and CISF.

The blueprint should preclude any role for the state police in the conduct of the polls. The exercise of identifying police and civil administration officers known to be Trinamool acolytes has to start soon so that they are shunted off to insignificant posts as soon as the elections are notified by the Election Commission.

For all this, the Union government should start sending regular factual reports to the Election Commission (EC) now.

Senior MHA officials should brief the EC frequently on political violence and politicisation of the state machinery in Bengal so that the EC takes the necessary steps as soon as the elections are notified.

The CAPF has to be deployed in Bengal as soon as the elections are notified and the state administration comes under the EC.

The Bengal police, which has proved itself to be a mere adjunct of the Trinamool, should be largely relegated to the barracks.

The equally biased state administration also has to be strictly monitored; the EC Observers have to be much more proactive and aggressive than they have been in the past.

For all this to happen and for the Assembly polls due in April-May next year to be free and fair, the Union government has to start the groundwork now.

This ground work also involves keeping the Trinamool under pressure so that it plays by the rules of the game.

Only then can political violence be checked in Bengal.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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