The biggest inadequacy of the BJP in West Bengal is the absence of a leader who can command popular respect and steer the state back to normal living and may be even pursue some development.
The administration in West Bengal appears to be breaking down. Till early this week, at least 15 people had died in post poll violence. The government’s decision to disallow victory processions seems to have been ignored. A protest rally against the violence was taken out by the BJP on Wednesday in Kolkata, creating inevitable traffic chaos.
Additionally, the emergency departments of public hospitals in the state have been rendered non-functional after junior doctors have gone on strike to protest against the assault on them at a leading Kolkata hospital by aggrieved relatives of an aged patient who died.
What should set alarm bells ringing is the combative chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, usually quick with words without much thought, appears to have lost some of her fire.
It is difficult to apportion blame for the violence as both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP appear to be doing their own thing. While the BJP cadre appear to be in control of themselves and focused on discrediting the Trinamool government, the latter seem to be bent on self-destructing.
The centre’s stern advisory to the state government on the prevailing situation, the state governor’s journey to Delhi and on return calling a meeting with the main political parties to advise restraint is unlikely to have an impact.
Attention is now focused on New Delhi to find a clue as to whether or when it will impose president’s rule in the state as the breakdown of law and order and the police’s inability to effectively intervene – maybe it has even lost the will to do so – appears to be extensive.
There is in fact an alternative theory which holds that the centre will do everything to make life difficult for the state government, holding it up in poor light, without actually dismissing it. This can be a tactical move as actual dismissal can give the Trinamool a campaign plank to depict itself as a victim of central highhandedness.
If this turns out to be the case and the centre stands by as normal life in the state remains severely affected, then the final victim of the politics of both the contending sides will be the people of the state. In such a situation it is difficult to visualize a return to normal life in which small businesses in particular are able to function and enable workers to earn something.
The key long term cause of the lawlessness, perpetrated by muscular local gangs coming under one banner or the other, is the lack of jobs. The Trinamool has now discredited and exposed itself by coming up second in the Singur assembly segment of the Hooghly parliamentary constituency which has been won by the BJP.
It is here that Mamata Banerjee laid the foundations of her success in the 2011 assembly elections by driving out the Tata Nano project on the ground that the Left Front’s decision to allow it was anti-farmer as it would take away fertile land from under the plough. The fact that the same Singur has rejected the Trinamool is history’s verdict on her politics of the time.
But even as Banerjee’s past strategy catches up with her, the BJP in the state does not hold out much hope of being able to provide a better government. Its rank and file comes from the same stock as that of the Trinamool. Its state leaders speak the same intemperate language as do the Trinamool’s.
The biggest inadequacy of the BJP in the state is the absence of a leader who can command popular respect and steer the state back to normal living and may be even pursue some development. So the dilemma for the BJP’s national leadership is that even as it has power within its grasp in the state it does not have a candidate of any kind of stature commanding public respect on whom can be placed the mantle of leadership.Subir Roy is a senior journalist and author. The views expressed are personal.The Great Diwali Discount!
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