Rajnath sounds poll bugle in Bengal but BJP looks horribly undercooked

If the BJP was looking for one opening in Trinamool Congress's rather impregnable Bengal fort, Malda provided the party that golden chance.

And in a signal that India's single largest party is willing to squeeze every bit of juice from it, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday landed in the state and indulged in a lot of bluster, virtually blowing BJP's poll bugle for the upcoming Assembly elections in April-May.

Seeking to turn around a reversal of fortunes after consecutive drubbing in Delhi and Bihar, the BJP's unofficial No.3 turned on the heat on TMC government, accusing it of not taking proper action against the perpetrators of violence.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

Home Minister Rajnath Singh. PTI

"Malda incident was not a small one. The Trinamool Congress government and West Bengal chief minister should make it clear who is responsible for the incident," Rajnath said.

"I assure the people that whoever is responsible for the Malda violence will be exposed. The West Bengal government cannot deny responsibility for Malda incident."

It is interesting to note that just a week earlier, the Home Ministry had ruled out poking its nose in Malda, denying a three-member BJP delegation's request to send a fact-finding team of central officials to Bengal's border district.

Ever since violence broke out on 3 January, Malda has been on the boil. It has emerged as a veritable hotbed for anti-national activities. It is a hub of illegal small arms manufacturing, extensive poppy cultivation and is a nerve centre for fake Indian currency notes. It is also a place where narco mafia's writ rules large, a fact that came to the fore during the recent violence in Kaliachak block.

Rajnath launched a full-frontal attack on Mamata Banerjee for 'failing to establish law and order'.

"Aaj West Bengal mein koi surakshit nahi, na maa, na maati na manush. Yahan tak ki police wale bhi surakshit nahi (No one is safe in Bengal, not even the state police). When policemen feel insecure, how they can provide security to the civilians?" he said.

Try as the BJP might though, and for all the firepower at its disposal in the form of heavyweight central ministers who will be visiting Bengal quite frequently like migratory birds as polls draw near, it seems unlikely that Mamata Banerjee would be even mildly worried.

A fact that is evident from the ever-excitable TMC spokesperson's Derek O'Brien's rather tepid reaction to Rajnath's rally.
"Rajnath Singh must realize that Malda is BJP's creation. As Home Minister, he shouldn't be on a mission to stoke communal tension."

Part of TMC's smugness comes from the belief that opposition is fragmented in Bengal and there is no clarity on who are its principal rivals. There is almost nothing left of the Left as it tries desperately to stitch some sort of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress.

The Congress' state unit and grassroots workers are not averse to the idea but the high command has been cautious in its approach, not ruling out an approach from the ruling TMC.

The BJP is strong only in pockets. It rode the Narendra Modi wave during 2014 to garner 17 percent popular votes but have since been on a downhill, faring poorly in last year's Kolkata Municipal Polls.

Leaders such as Sidharth Nath Singh reckon a 'free and fair election' will be enough to usher in BJP rule. A claim that sounds fantastic and tall.

There is no coherence in the state unit with new president Dilip Ghosh still busy finding his moorings. They do have a firebrand women leader in Roopa Ganguly but the party is still woefully short when it comes to a credible face to be pitted against Mamata Banerjee.

No matter how many rallies Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah or even Narendra Modi hold close to the elections, the BJP will struggle to pose any meaningful challenge to TMC.

Bihar has shown that a strong central leadership isn't enough in taking on powerful local satraps.

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Updated Date: Jan 22, 2016 08:01:24 IST

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