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West Bengal: BJP and Trinamool Congress change strategy as campaign for assembly elections progresses | India News


CALCUTTA: The epic ‘Battle for Bengal’ has seen two bitter rivals, the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, cleverly change their voting strategies as they face off in a grueling month-and-a-half campaign.
However, after running a campaign on the theme ‘Bangla nijer meyekei chay’ (Bengal loves her daughter) and the program ‘Duare Sarkar’ (the government at her doorstep), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has changed heading before the last three phases of voting. by attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for leaving India unprepared for the second wave of Covid.
He has also blamed an influx of “outsiders brought in by BJP” for the spread of the coronavirus in the state.
The BJP, which had Banerjee on the defensive by campaigning against corruption involving TMC leaders and the ‘cut money’ (bribery) culture that affects citizens’ everyday lives, is suddenly trying to defend itself against Covid mismanagement charges.
“Although Banerjee’s campaign themes had resonance, BJP’s campaign from promising development to attacking his party on bribery allegations was better modulated. The saffron party also skillfully used the dividing lines of Bengal society in its benefit, “said Ranabir Samaddar, a well-known political scientist and director of the Calcutta Research Group.
“However, he seems to have realized that in a political theater that lasts a month and a half, development and language alone may not sell. His advisers should have highlighted the Covid problem earlier,” said Samaddar, formerly the Professor-in-charge at the Maulana Azad Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata, he said.
Banerjee’s ‘Bangla nijer meyekei chay’ campaign, which looks visitors in the face through huge billboards leading to the 330-year-old city, seemed to emphasize ‘Bangaliana’ or ‘Bengaliness’ to counter communal politics that Difference between Bengali Hindus and Muslims.
However, the theme somehow also articulates the fears of middle-class Bengalis that their numbers, language and culture may be threatened by a new influx of migrants.
Although Kolkata has always been a cosmopolitan city, with significant pockets of speakers of Hindi, Marwari, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu, and even Chinese, the low-key language policy that emerged in the 1960s and disappeared in the 1980s has again Appear. to the fore in recent years with groups like ‘Bangla Pokkho’ (on the Bengal side) that have become prominent on social media.
With nearly 10 million Hindi speakers, concentrated in Kolkata and industrial cities in South Bengal, out of West Bengal’s population of just over 90 million, the campaign risked possible alienation of a large portion of voters. .
Political analysts feel that the BJP drew its strength from this by asking Banerjee to define ‘bohiragoto’ (outsiders), a term that TMC leaders used repeatedly in their campaign.
The ruling West Bengal party made desperate attempts to define the term as outsiders who had recently arrived or been brought in by the BJP for their campaign, against non-Bengalis who resided in the state for generations.
The BJP, however, remained combative on this issue.
“Kolkata has always had a cosmopolitan culture. That is the beauty of West Bengal. Everyone who has come here has fallen in love with Bengali culture.
“And Bengalis have celebrated this union with people from all over India through art, the freedom movement, public life … why come up with such divisions now?” former TMC Union minister Dinesh Trivedi, who recently switched to the BJP, said.
Samaddar notes that Banerjee could have mitigated this political counterattack and courted Hindi speakers, mostly from neighboring Bihar and Jharkhand, by getting RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren , join his campaign in a broader way.
However, others believe that ‘the daughter of Bengal’ remains popular with poorer Hindi speakers, and pollsters conducting pre- and post-election polls claim that the slogan in many ‘bustees’ (shanty towns) continues being “Delhi mein Modi, Bangal mein Didi” (Modi in Delhi and Didi in Bengal).
TMC also highlighted a gender gap by highlighting pro-women sops that the West Bengal government has successfully devised, including the UN-awarded ‘Kanyashree’ program, which transfers cash to girls to continue your studies and prevents early marriages.
Political scientists believe the TMC’s pro-women stance will pay dividends in ongoing polls.
“A high turnout of women voters that we have witnessed in many districts can help Banerjee, which continues to be extremely popular with women,” Samaddar said.
A caste divide that the Bengalis ‘Bhadralok’ rarely recognized was also highlighted by the BJP, which went further to woo the voters of Matua, Namasudra and Mahishya with promises of soups and reservations.
“We saw the unseemly spectacle of a prime minister courting the voters of a particular community during a visit to a neighboring country … this is unprecedented in the politics of India and West Bengal,” said the former MP and politburo member. of the PCM Nilotpal Basu. outside.
Since Independence, caste-based politics has had little play in West Bengal, except in the election of candidates.
This is seen in part as a result of Bengal’s rebirth in the 19th century that functioned against caste barriers, as well as a legacy of the state’s curious history of partition.
The “death of caste politics” occurred when Jogendra Nath Mandal, a political leader of Bengal’s programmed caste community, resigned as minister of labor in Pakistan’s first cabinet and emigrated to India in 1950 after repeated riots and atrocities. against the namasudras and other programmed castes in the east. Pakistan.
Mandal, an Ambedkarite previously influenced by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, broke ranks to support the Muslim League in a referendum to decide the fate of Sylhet, a Bengali-speaking district of Assam that eventually went to Pakistan.
He had supported the League believing that the programmed Breeds would have a better future in Pakistan.
The politics of religion that saw the partition of Bengal in 1947 also figured in different ways in the strategies of rival parties in this assembly election.
While the BJP accused the TMC of “appeasement policy” to attract minority voters, the ruling party in the state accused the BJP of using its slogan ‘Jai Shree Ram’ to communalize the elections, a charge denied by the saffron party. Trivedi stated that “the slogan is a protest against corruption.”
Banerjee tried to address the Hindutva brigade’s accusations of being openly pro-minority by emphasizing their own Brahmin lineage and reciting ‘Chandi Path’ (shlokas honoring the mother goddess), while also emphasizing their secular credentials by reciting as well the Koran at the end of his campaign speeches.
While this may or may not cut the ice with the electorate, many fear that the flaws revealed in these elections will continue to haunt West Bengal for years to come.
“We fear that the dividing lines that both the BJP and TMC are lifting and deepening will have a long-term implication for our society. This will be a tragedy for a society that is proud of its progressive credentials.”
“For us politicians, moving political discourse away from these dividing fissures will remain a challenge for all future campaigns, regardless of who wins or loses,” said Abhijit Mukherjee, former MP and chairman of the Congressional campaign committee for West Bengal.

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