What The BJP Needs To Learn From The Trinamool’s Aggressive Conduct In Tripura

Jaideep Mazumdar

Aug 09, 2021, 06:03 PM | Updated 06:03 PM IST

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb.
  • The BJP, which could have easily hurled the accusations right back at the Trinamool, looked on passively and allowed the Trinamool to walk away with all the publicity and media coverage.
  • If there is a lesson that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) needs to learn from the Trinamool Congress, it is about how to stand by its own.

    Over the past few days, the Trinamool leadership has displayed its spunk in more than adequate measure in BJP-ruled Tripura, where it has no organisational base worth the name.

    Two weeks ago, Trinamool heavyweights from Bengal — Education Minister Bratya Basu, MPs Derek O’Brien and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, its trade union wing chief Ritabrata Banerjee and party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh — air-dashed to Agartala when police detained a few members of Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) there.

    The I-PAC team was in Tripura to prepare a report on the political situation in that state and the Trinamool’s prospects there. They had gone around the state and contacted politicians from other parties, including the BJP, to lure them to the Trinamool.

    But they had allegedly violated Covid-19 protocols and were thus detained by the police. An angry Trinamool took that as an affront and dispatched its senior leaders to Agartala to bail out the I-PAC team.

    Following this, Trinamool general secretary and party chief Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek went to Agartala early last week.

    Abhishek faced angry demonstrations by BJP workers and his vehicle was allegedly attacked as well. That triggered angry protests by the Trinamool not only across Bengal, but also by its MPs in Delhi who launched a loud campaign alleging goonda raj and ‘death of democracy’ in Tripura.

    The BJP, which could have easily hurled the accusations right back at the Trinamool, looked on passively and allowed the Trinamool to walk away with all the publicity and media coverage.

    Trinamool cadres sought to avenge the alleged attack on the party’s yuvraj (Abhishek) by allegedly assaulting and even killing a couple of BJP workers and supporters in Bengal.

    The BJP acted defensively and meekly denied that its workers had attacked Banerjee’s vehicle in Tripura. BJP Bengal spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya, when asked about the incident in Tripura by reporters, merely said that the party unit in Bengal was “not a franchisee” of the party in Tripura and would not speak on the issue. BJP leaders in Tripura only denied that any BJP worker was involved in the alleged attack.

    Bhattacharya let go of a wonderful opportunity to turn the tables on the Trinamool by aggressively highlighting the attacks on and murders of BJP workers and supporters in Bengal. Bhattacharya could have easily taken the wind out of the Trinamool’s sails, but inexplicably failed to do so.

    Last weekend, a bunch of Trinamool youth leaders from Bengal were sent to Tripura to recruit student leaders, youth and young professionals into the party’s fledgling unit in that state.

    The team, which included Debangshu Bhattacharya (who wrote the Trinamool’s Khela Hobe campaign song), Jaya Dutta and Sudip Raha, were allegedly attacked by BJP workers when they were returning to Agartala from a political programme in a neighbouring district on Saturday evening.

    The three allegedly sustained minor injuries and faced repeated roadblocks and attacks allegedly by BJP workers. The team of 14 Trinamool functionaries were then escorted to the district police lines in Khowai district for their own safety.

    But since they had violated Covid protocols and were moving around even after 7 pm (movement in Tripura is restricted after 7 pm as a pandemic-control measure), they were arrested by the police.

    As soon as news of the ‘arrest’ of the 14 Trinamool functionaries reached Kolkata, Abhishek Banerjee accompanied by Education Minister Bratya Basu, former MP Dola Sen and party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh flew down to Agartala to bail out their junior party colleagues and workers.

    The convoy of vehicles carrying the top Trinamool leaders were attacked on Sunday morning while it was on its way from Agartala to Khowai. But that did not deter them and on reaching Khowai, they staged an eight-hour dharna at the local police station.

    Abhishek Banerjee and the other Trinamool leaders got into heated arguments with senior police officers there and declared they would not budge till their party colleagues and workers were released.

    A number of newly-recruited Trinamool workers and cadres also reached the police station and remained there even as a large crowd of BJP workers and supporters converged there and raised slogans against the Trinamool leaders.

    Ultimately, the arrested Trinamool youth leaders and functionaries were granted bail by a local court and a triumphant Abhishek Banerjee returned to Agartala with them.

    After reaching the state capital, Banerjee threw an open challenge to Chief Minister Biplab Deb. An aggressive Abhishek Banerjee said: “Mark my words. You can keep trying but will fall short. We know how to defeat the BJP”.

    Trinamool MPs staged a dharna at the feet of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in Parliament complex Monday. All top leaders of the Trinamool tweeted about the attacks on Abhishek Banerjee and other party leaders and functionaries in Tripura.

    They launched a hawkish social media campaign alleging "dictatorial rule of BJP in Tripura" and subversion of democratic rights in the northeastern state.

    The Trinamool’s high-decibel campaign and the offensive it has launched against the ruling BJP in a state where it had virtually no presence till even two weeks ago is grabbing public attention in that state.

    Political observers in Tripura say that at this rate, it is only a matter of time before the Trinamool becomes the principal opposition party in the state.

    The Trinamool top leadership’s open demonstration of solidarity with its functionaries and workers in the face of attacks from a much powerful rival (which the BJP is in Tripura) will attract many recruits to the party, say the observers.

    “There are many mid and junior-rung leaders and workers within the weakened CPI(M) and the Congress in Tripura who are frustrated with the inability of their party leaders to take on the BJP. They will now gravitate towards the Trinamool because the Trinamool leadership has displayed the spine to stand by its workers and stand up to the BJP,” said a senior journalist in the popular English daily Tripura Observer.

    Abhishek Banerjee and other senior Trinamool leaders displayed spunk and aggression and rushed to Tripura when their juniors faced attacks (by alleged BJP workers), and were arrested by the police. This stands out in sharp contrast to the response from the BJP leadership (including the central leadership) when saffron party workers and supporters came under murderous and vicious attacks by Trinamool goons after the declaration of assembly results in early May.

    Attacks by Trinamool workers and hired goons on BJP workers and supporters in Bengal intensified after the saffron party’s handsome win of 18 Lok Sabha seats (out of the 42 in the state) in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

    Since then, an estimated 350 BJP workers and supporters, including a party MLA, have been killed and thousands attacked, injured and maimed. Many women BJP workers and family members of party workers were molested and raped while tens of thousands have been driven out of their homes.

    There have been horrific murders, rapes and attacks on BJP workers after 2 May when the results of the assembly polls in the state were declared.

    The response of the BJP leadership to these ghastly attacks on the party workers and supporters have been, at best, muted. At a time when the BJP could have raised a countrywide din and shamed the Trinamool, the party decided to stage half-hearted protests in Bengal for some inexplicable reason.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Union Home Minister Amit Shah did not utter a single word of condemnation of the grisly attacks on their party workers in Bengal. Other central ministers also ignored the pogrom against BJP workers in Bengal.

    As a result, many among the tens of thousands of besieged BJP workers who were abandoned by the party leadership have disassociated themselves from the party.

    In sharp contrast, the spunk displayed by the Trinamool leadership and their promptness in not only standing by but even aggressively defending party functionaries and workers in Tripura is sure to embolden the party unit in that state, but also attract more people to its ranks.

    The senior journalist working for Tripura Observer put it succinctly: “If those who are ideologically inclined against the BJP feel that the Trinamool can defend them against the BJP, they will flock to the Trinamool. A party that shows its spine and stands by its workers is the ultimate gainer”.

    Ironically, this is not a lesson that the BJP in Tripura needs to be taught. Because, in the run-up to the 2018 assembly elections in the state, the BJP did not let a single attack on its workers by the ruling CPI(M) at that time go unchallenged.

    It was the BJP aggressiveness in Tripura and the party leadership’s grit and determination to stand in solidarity with its workers which not only attracted thousands of anti-Left workers and leaders to the saffron party, but ultimately helped it unseat the Left and capture power in the state.

    However, this is a lesson that seems to have been sadly lost on the BJP’s central leadership.

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