Narendra Modi oath-taking ceremony: Mamata's attempt to take moral high ground exposes her political immaturity

BJP has accused the TMC of engineering a string of murders during the panchayat polls and general elections.

Sreemoy Talukdar May 30, 2019 17:13:50 IST
Narendra Modi oath-taking ceremony: Mamata's attempt to take moral high ground exposes her political immaturity
  • TMC, according to Mamata, does not believe in politics of bloodshed. The claim would have been amusing had the circumstances not been so tragic

  • BJP’s move to invite the kin of its workers murdered in political violence in Bengal has caught Mamata on the wrong foot

  • BJP’s threat may bring out the best in Mamata. We might be heading towards more political upheavals in Bengal

Mamata Banerjee is angry. Very angry. Just when she had decided to attend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony on Thursday to uphold “constitutional proprieties”, the BJP sprung a “nasty surprise” by inviting the families of party workers who have been murdered in West Bengal due to political violence. Modi picked up the topic during his thanksgiving speech in Varanasi on Monday, a day after yet another BJP worker was shot dead in Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas district. BJP has accused the TMC of engineering a string of murders during the panchayat polls and general elections.

Mamata has two objections. One, she claimed that not a single BJP karyakarta has been killed in political violence in Bengal. She called BJP’s charge — that the saffron unit has lost 54 karyakartas in TMC-instigated violence — “completely untrue”. In her letter to the prime minister rejecting the invitation, Mamata claimed that “there have been no political murders in Bengal…” She claimed that these deaths may have “taken place due to personal enmity, family quarrels and other disputes; nothing related to politics.”

In other words, TMC, according to Mamata, does not believe in politics of bloodshed. The claim would have been amusing had the circumstances not been so tragic. In his 2016 article Political Intolerance in Bengal, professor Debatra K Dey wrote in Economic and Policital Weekly about the reign of terror in TMC-ruled Bengal where democracy is under threat and “terror reigns in the districts whenever oppositions try to organise any programme. The first corporation election in Bidhannagar, bordering Kolkata witnessed unprecedented terror and booth capturing. Civilians are feeling helpless at this naked show of violence and complicity from the authorities.”

Narendra Modi oathtaking ceremony Mamatas attempt to take moral high ground exposes her political immaturity

File image of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Reuters

On Mamata’s claim that not a single BJP political worker has been killed in political violence, let’s do a perfunctory fact-check. On 28 July, 2018, BJP leader Shaktipada Sardar was hacked to death at Mandirbazar area in Diamond Harbour constituency.

According to the BJP, TMC goons were responsible for the murder.

Earlier that month on 3 July, local BJP worker Dhormo Hazra’s body was recovered from a pond near Shaktipur area in Murshidabad district. The body was found with its hands tied.

Just a month before that incident, BJP OBC cell’s district leader Dulal Kumar “was found hanging from a high tension electric pole” in the Dava hamlet near Balarampur police station. Locals clashed with the cops, according to reports, when they tried to take the body away for post-mortem. Villagers and the BJP claimed that it was a political murder. Police called it a “suicide”.  And three days prior to Dulal’s death, 18-year-old BJP worker Trilochan Mahato’s body was found hanging from a tree in Purulia. Trilochan’s father Pano is a Dalit leader from BJP.

Mamata’s second reason behind rejecting the invitation for Modi’s oath-taking ceremony is that such an “august occasion” has been sullied by BJP’s ‘politicisation’ attempt. She ostensibly means that BJP’s move to call the families of dead political workers as special invitees for the swearing-in program is a deplorable act that devalues the importance of the ceremony. She has accused the BJP of trying to score political points and opportunism.

Interesting that Mamata should feel so because in 2011, as the newly-elected chief minister of West Bengal, when Mamata was getting ready to take the oath of office, relatives of those murdered in Left Front violence in Singur, Nandigram and Netai were invited to the ceremony on the Raj Bhavan premises.

“31 people from Nandigram who are relatives of the martyrs (14 were killed in police firing in 2007), nine people from Netai who are kins of those killed (allegedly by CPM goons), and family members of Tapasi Malik (raped and murdered allegedly by Left leaders during Singur movement) have been invited to the ceremony. We will escort them from the village to the venue,” TMC leader and Union minister of state for rural development Sisir Adhikari told news agency IANS.

is evident that BJP’s move to invite the kin of its workers murdered in political violence in Bengal has caught Mamata on the wrong foot. She could no longer attend the event because that would have meant tacit admission on her part of TMC-orchestrated violence, but in her hasty withdrawal and hastier citing of excuses, she runs the risk of further losing her credibility.

Notably, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik or Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot — all political rivals — are also skipping the event. Mamata could have easily done so without a fuss. But in seeking to occupy high moral ground while rejecting the invitation and giving excuses that are vulnerable to refutation, Mamata has exposed her political immaturity.

It may only be now dawning on the Bengal chief minister the enormity of the challenge facing her.

If the BJP, with a ramshackle organisational structure in the state and no local mass leader to speak of, can still pull off a stunning upset and send 18 lawmakers to Parliament from West Bengal, it is evident that a fertile ground has been created for BJP’s further rise, the party will be doubly enthused to maximise its gains and its workers, cadres and local leaders will become suitably energised.

Defections, that have already begun in BJP’s favour, may start in a trickle and quickly develop into a flood. Mamata would be aware of the saffron shadow over her own seat in 2021 Assembly polls. The TMC won 211 seats out of 294 in 2016 Assembly polls. Already, two TMC MLAs and one each from Congress and CPM have crossed over to the saffron camp. Reports say 50 TMC councilors have also turned saffron. BJP claims this is the first strike in first phase with six more to go.

Mamata should be worried because the BJP plans ahead, has enormous resources at its disposal and is filling in a political and ideological vacuum in Bengal. Trinamool Congress may still hold the cards, but in a personality-centric party that relies more on opportunism than ideology to propagate and sustain its appeal, TMC faces a formidable opponent in BJP that ticks all the boxes.

The Hindutva plank gives BJP a solid ideological base, whereas in TMC any change in Mamata’s popularity graph will have a deleterious effect on her party’s fortune in the state. Mamata, however, is a street fighter and won’t give up so soon. BJP’s threat may bring out the best in her. We might be heading towards more political upheavals in Bengal.

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