West Bengal

Bengal Post-Poll Violence: What’s Stopping Amit Shah From Reading The Riot Act To Mamata Banerjee?

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jun 15, 2024, 04:48 PM | Updated Jun 17, 2024, 10:09 AM IST

Home Minister Amit Shah and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Home Minister Amit Shah and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
  • The BJP leadership’s inaction has been strange and unexpected.
  • Horrific post-poll violence is a sickening reality in Bengal.

    After every election, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and supporters are attacked, raped, killed, and driven away from their houses by Trinamool Congress goons.

    The bereaved families silently mourn the dead, the injured nurse their wounds, and the displaced return to their homes eventually, but only after paying a stiff fine to the local Trinamool netas.

    The cycle repeats after every election.

    To be fair, this has been a dreadful practice since the Left Front rule in the state. At that time, it used to be the Congress and Trinamool Congress at the receiving end of the communists’ big stick.

    Though Mamata Banerjee promised ‘badal’ (change) and not ‘badla’ (revenge) when she came to power in Bengal in 2011, the Trinamool has far surpassed the CPI(M)-led Left Front in perpetrating violence on political opponents, primarily the BJP. 

    The Trinamool’s brutality hardly evokes any protest outside Bengal and is hypocritically ignored by the country's ‘left-liberal’ media. But that is to be expected.

    What is unexpected is the BJP leadership’s inaction in saving party workers and supporters from Trinamool’s wrath and, more importantly, its failure to act against the Banerjee government for failing to curb crimes against opposition activists.

    Save for just a few, state BJP leaders have failed to stand by their beleaguered karyakartas on the ground, especially in the rural and semi-urban areas and in the urban slums. 

    Most BJP leaders and functionaries have stuck to condemning the Trinamool’s atrocities on social media. Except in some cases, the party has failed to help workers and supporters rebuild their lives after their properties and homes were damaged by rampaging Trinamool goons.

    This is the case even though it is well known that the BJP does not face a dearth of funds. 

    The BJP central leadership, while issuing statements condemning political violence in Bengal, has been stressing that the Trinamool’s barbarism will be countered "legally."

    This has meant filing cases and petitions seeking intervention by the courts and complaining to bodies like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

    But the legal route is a long and expensive one, without guaranteed outcomes, and entities like the NHRC are unable to take any action against the state government. 

    The BJP central leadership’s timid stance is best exemplified by party president J P Nadda’s statement after visiting the family members of slain BJP karyakarta Abhijit Sarkar in early May 2021.

    Sarkar, a popular and active BJP worker, was killed by Trinamool goons in front of his family members at his home in Kolkata’s Beliaghata. The attack occurred immediately after the results of the assembly election, which the Trinamool Congress had swept, were announced. 

    Nadda, after meeting the bereaved family members, told reporters that "Mamata Banerjee has blood on her hands." Asked if the Union government would take any measures against the state government, he said the BJP would fight the Trinamool in a “samvaidhanik tarika” (constitutional manner). 

    That response from the BJP national president was seen as inadequate in the face of atrocities committed by the Trinamool against Nadda's own party workers and supporters.

    A senior state BJP leader who is well known for advocating a tough stand against the Trinamool told Swarajya that the party president’s feeble response wasn’t surprising.

    "During campaigning (for the 2021 assembly polls), the convoy of Nadda and other senior BJP leaders was attacked in South 24 Parganas district. The vehicle carrying Nadda took direct hits. It was an outrageous incident. But all that the party central leadership did was condemn the attack," said the state BJP leader. 

    "Now imagine if the same had happened to Mamata Banerjee or her nephew. She would have created a huge ruckus and whipped up a storm over it. She would not have said she’d fight back ‘constitutionally’. Our central leadership has to realise that Mamata Banerjee does not understand constitutional niceties and legal procedures. She needs to be paid back in the same coin," he explained. 

    This sentiment was echoed by a BJP worker from Diamond Harbour, Dulal Das, who had been forced to flee his home due to attacks by Trinamool goons. Swarajya met him at a shelter arranged by a senior state leader. 

    "I am disgusted with the inaction by our party leadership. I had to leave my house and take shelter with my relatives in 2019 (after the Lok Sabha polls) and 2021 (after the assembly elections) as well. I could return months later only after paying a ‘fine’ to local Trinamool leaders. One BJP leader, whom I know personally, helped me financially. But that is not enough. I want strong action to be taken against the Trinamool goons. It’s unfortunate that our party leadership is impotent to take action against Mamata Banerjee," he told Swarajya

    His outburst drew a functionary of the BJP’s South 24 Parganas district unit to our conversation at a party office in South Kolkata. This party leader, who did not want to give his name, counselled Das: "There is a proper procedure to be followed. Just because they (the Trinamool) are breaking the law, we also cannot do the same. Justice will be done; it may take time, but the guilty will be punished." 

    Das’ counter to this advice was interesting. "Had Mamata Banerjee been in power at the Centre and the BJP in power in Bengal, and if Trinamool workers were being beaten up in the state, would Mamata Banerjee have issued mere statements condemning the violence and relied on the law? She would have made life hell for the BJP and would have even imposed President’s Rule in the state," he said. 

    This feeling has been expressed by a large number of BJP workers and functionaries who spoke to Swarajya over the past week. 

    Even senior leaders are criticising the BJP central leadership for its soft stand against the Banerjee government. 

    "Not taking a tough stand against Mamata Banerjee and her government has completely demoralised our cadres and supporters. Most of our workers have dissociated themselves from the party after the 2021 post-poll violence due to the leadership’s failure to stand by them. That affected our performance this time as we didn’t have enough workers on the ground to mobilise people and to resist the Trinamool’s rigging and muscle power," said a senior office-bearer of the party. 

    He added that after the current spell of violence against BJP workers and supporters, there will be very few workers left in the party. "Mark my words: we will be wiped out in the 2026 assembly election because we won’t have any workers on the ground," he prophesied. 

    Former state party president Tathagata Roy, who also served as the Governor of Tripura and Meghalaya, foretells this, as well. In a post on X, he wrote: "Dear BJP central leadership! BJP workers in West Bengal are so demoralised that in 10 years no BJP will be left in Bengal. In 20 years WB will become a Muslim-dominated state. And in 30 years WB, plus the Northeast, will become part of Islamic Bangladesh." 

    "Mamata Banerjee has gone scot-free after all the terrible atrocities, including murders and rapes of our supporters and workers. She is least bothered about condemnations and court cases. The only language she understands is action, and unless the Union government takes action, nothing will change in Bengal," said a former state secretary. 

    “What stops (Home Minister) Amit Shah from speaking directly to Mamata Banerjee and warning her that attacks on BJP workers and supporters in Bengal will meet with strong counter-action, which may even include the imposition of Article 355, which will mean the Union government taking direct control of the law and order machinery in the state? Mamata Banerjee will only understand such tough threats," the former state secretary added.

    Even if the threat of the imposition of Article 355 is not issued directly, BJP leaders say, Shah can always tell Banerjee that violence against opposition workers will not be tolerated and will invite retaliation.

    If such a warning is issued in all seriousness, it will have an immediate effect, the leaders say.

    Issuing mere condemnations and displaying helplessness (by the central leadership) will only imperil the BJP in Bengal and pave the way for a disastrous performance in the 2026 assembly election, BJP leaders and supporters warn.

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