West Bengal Elections: After TMC, BJP Takes the Hate Speech Path
Birbhum’s TMC leader Anubrata Mondal has found a match in West Bengal BJP’s president Dilip Ghosh. The otherwise nondescript RSS pracharak has recently been anointed as the president of the state party unit. Soon he started drawing limelight by making a series of hate speeches.
His latest, ‘‘anyone who raises slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ will be chopped by six inches from the top” went viral, bringing him instant ‘fame’.
The Rhetoric of Hate
Last week, Ghosh delivered another speech where he expressed his desire to handle the Jadavpur University (JU) issue. Earlier, JU students raised slogans of ‘Azadi’ expressing their solidarity with the JNU students.
Immediately after that, the Governor-cum-Chancellor of the university, Kesharinath Tripathi urged the Vice-chancellor to lodge a complaint with the police against the students, for their ‘anti-national’ act. Vice-chancellor Suranjan Das refused to oblige him, and went on record saying the university must have space for dissenting voices.
The Birbhum incident indicates that Ghosh is now keen to up the ante by injecting more venom in his hate speech. Jayprakash Majumdar, a state BJP leader, urges not to judge Ghosh by the comment he made at Birbhum rally. “It has been taken out of context by the media,’’ observes Majumdar.
A BJP-TMC Secret Pact of Not Hurting Each Other?
In 2013, during the Panchayat elections, Anubrata Mondal publicly encouraged Trinamool supporters to hurl bombs at the police and burn down the houses of independent candidates. Less than a week after Mandal made his speech, independent candidate Sagar Ghose was shot and killed at his village home.
The victim’s family claimed that Mandal was involved. Opposition parties alleged that Mandal’s speeches provoked Trinamool supporters, resulting in the murder of Ghosh. But, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee supported Mandal, calling him ‘’an efficient organizer’’ and vowing to defend him to the end. Now, it seems, BJP’s Dilip Ghosh is ready to give Mondal a tough competition in the arena of making hate speech.
This also smacks of a bigger plot that is gradually becoming obvious in the run-up to the assembly elections. As the opposition parties charge, the TMC and BJP have arrived at a secret understanding of not hurting each other. The TMC MPs are silent on many issues that could have put the Modi government in particular, and BJP in general, in an awkward situation.
Saugata Roy, a TMC MP, has already been twice admonished publicly for criticising the Modi government and the Sangh Parivar. Mamata Banerjee, who opens her mouth at the drop of a hat, has remained silent and uttered not a single word on the JNU and Jadavpur issues.
Abdul Mannan, a senior Congress leader, who took the initiative to bring the Saradha chit fund scam to the Supreme Court’s notice, leading to a CBI inquiry, sees a deal that would prod the CBI to go slow on the political connections in the scam.
Also, Mamata, a champion of the Minority cause, is silent over the utterances made by the BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders like Dilip Ghosh. Jayaprakash Majumdar admits that the perception that BJP and Modi government going soft on TMC is hurting the state party’s cause.
“We are facing a lot of questions from out rank and file’’, says Majumdar. But, Mamata has only to gain from the hate speeches of BJP leaders. If the BJP leaders continue to rant, it would only help consolidate the Muslim vote on one side, and Mamata could become its greatest beneficiary.
Unceasing Violence in West Bengal
Unsurprisingly, consistent with the hate speeches made by political leaders, the violence has never stopped in Bengal. Birbhum’s Nanur and Ilambazar, South 24 Parganas’ Bhangar, Hooghly’s Khanakul and Arambagh, Bardhaman town are some of the places where violent political clashes or armed attacks on opposition supporters take place on a regular basis.
In the 2014 general elections, people of West Bengal witnessed a new phenomenon – armed young men, riding on motorbikes, roamed around constituencies and terrorised voters. They also had a free run of the polling stations in a number of constituencies where polling agents of opposition candidates were forced out of the polling booths.
Booths were captured with impunity by the goons belonging to the ruling party. The election officers and the state police force inside the polling booths were mute spectators to these perfidies.
When the Election Commission (EC) transferred a number of police officers for not being impartial to the ruling party, and debarred them from poll duty, the Chief Minister cried foul. Mamata announced that in case any kind of violence erupts in the state, the EC would be solely responsible. She also said that law and order in the state was not the government’s responsibility, if the EC decided to take things in its own hands. Yet, when violence erupted in the polling booths, the ruling party was in denial.
Will West Bengal Witness Free and Fair Polls?
On last Thursday, on the eve of the EC’s poll dates announcement, Sitaram Yechuri led a two-member delegation to the commission and submitted a memorandum. It drew attention to the reported statement of Partha Chatterjee, the Education Minister of West Bengal, questioning the jurisdiction of the EC over matters pertaining to law and order.
Partha Chatterjee’s contention – law and order come under the purview of the state government during the election process. The CPI(M) leader pointed out to the EC that this, together with the reported representation of the TMC claiming that ‘surfeit of central forces’ will adversely affect free and fair poll, accentuates his party’s concern. Unsurprisingly, the CPIM memorandum mentioned Nanur-Bolpur in Birbhum as the most sensitive area in the state, the district where BJP’s Dilip Ghosh made his now infamous hate speech from.
(The writer, Rajat Roy, is a former executive editor of Ananda Bazar Patrika.)