Rise of BJP Transformation of Bengal from ‘Lal Salam’ to ‘Jai Shri Ram’
From a political party with no existence in bengal politics until recently to sweeping nearly half of the West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged not as a political party in Bengal but as the main opposition to the ruling Trinamool Congress government.
Now, as the Assembly election is drawing closer in West Bengal, the power and strength is visible day by day. With many high-profile Trinamool Congress rebels like Suvendu Adhikari and others coming to the BJP’s fold, chances of its forming the government in Bengal in 2021 have increased considerably while the Congress party and Left parties, who ruled the state for decades, have now been left below the margins. According to an analysis based on BJP’s performance in the last election, the party secured 40.5 % votes and was ahead in more than 125 of the 294 assembly seats in the state. This time BJP is eyeing to win more than 220 seats.
The rise of the BJP in West Bengal and the shift of the political sentiment of the people of the state from ‘Lal Salam’ to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in less than a decade has a number of reasons. The politics of appeasement of the ruling Trinamool Congress, as accused by political parties, has pushed for the Hindutva sentiments of the people. The allegations of corruption also created a strong wave of anti-incumbency against the state’s ruling party that may eventually play a more crucial role than the communal polarisation.
At the same time, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s course-correction measures with the help of strategist Prashant Kishor are aimed at gaining some ground. As she has announced some eye-catching programmes for the people of the state like ‘Duare Sarkar’ and 5 lakh cashless health insurance for all. Mamata Banerjee is going to project her developmental programmes and will fight the election on the issue of development.
Recently launched, ‘Duare Sarkar’ has reached more than 1 crore in two weeks. The mega outreach programme is launched with the objective to deliver government schemes at the doorsteps of citizens. As per the programme, government officials are reaching door to door to ensure people get advantage of the 11 schemes launched by the West Bengal administration since 2011.
The globally acclaimed flagship schemes include ‘Kanyashree’ (a cash transfer scheme aimed at retaining girls in schools and preventing their early marriage), ‘Khadya Sathi’ ( ensuring 90 per cent of the population comes under food security), ‘Sikshashree’ (one time grant given to SC and ST students from class 5 to class 8 for going to schools).
Other government schemes like ‘Rupashree (one-time financial grant of Rs 25,000 for economically stressed families at the time of their daughter’s marriage), ‘Jai Johar’ (for Schedule Tribes ), ‘Taposili Bondhu’ (pension scheme for Schedule Caste), ‘Akhyashree’ (scheme that provides scholarships to students of minority communities in the state) and MGNREGS are included in the program.
On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee has recently announced 5 lakh cashless health insurance for all the residents of West Bengal. She extended the benefits of the state health insurance programme Swastha Sathi, which offers cashless treatment benefits of up to Rs 5 lakh in private hospitals per family, to all the residents of the state.
“All Bengali families will now be able to avail this benefit. Anyone who does not have health insurance can avail it. Treatment in our government hospitals is free in any case. This card will come handy in about 1,500 enlisted private health facilities. We had earlier planned to bring 7.5 crore people under this scheme but now we extend it to 10 crore people,” Mamata said while announcing the programme.
Meanwhile, the growing acceptance of BJP among the masses in West Bengal also comes with question, the face of the party or the chief ministerial candidate. no leader in BJP has mass appeal or has worked at the grassroot level in Bengal. The infighting in the BJP’s state unit, which is mainly between the old guards of the state unit who are unwilling to leave their positions to new entrants from other parties, especially the TMC, questioning ideological orientation.
But for BJP state president, Dilip Ghosh, it is a “trivial matter”, which can be sorted out through dialogue, as he says, “We are a big family so these are trivial matters which can be solved through dialogue and discussions.”
Amidst all these happenings, West Bengal assembly elections is going to be the most keenly watched state elections of 2021. So all eyes are set on West Bengal politics, which is now unfolding surprises every new day.
By Joydeep Das Gupta from Kolkata