Violence begets Violence

At the time of writing West Bengal is witnessing a spate of post-poll violence, which is more marked in the South Bengal districts. The essence of this violence is the unleashing of a wave of repression by the ruling Trinamul Congress, wherever possible, on the supporters of others. Neither the CPI(M) nor the BJP is spared. There can be no gainsaying that the popularity of Mamata Banerjee has been fast declining and that the hold of her outfit on the people is on the wane. Although it is incorrect to suggest that the TMC has won as many as 34 seats just by rigging—it is nevertheless a fact that in a number of constituences, it has made large-scale use of muscle and gunpower with the tacit help of the police forces. This is definitely a step towards the imposition of a terroristic, fascistic rule. The post-poll violence is a sequel to it.

It is curious that while the reaction of the BJP to this violence is quick and prompt, the CPI(M)’s effort in this regard is rather feeble. This is however, no wonder because during the poll campaign, the CPI(M)’s local, zonal and district level leaders’ mode of participation was pathetically deficient in enthusiasm and vigour, they seemed to be resigned to the fate.

Yet the post-poll violence seemingly betrays a sign of weakness, not of strength. The TMC, although it has won 34 seats, has received only 39% of votes, and if allowance is made for the votes obtained through unfair means it would go down to 35% or 36%. The policy of Mamata Banerjee to distribute millions of rupees to the clubs of West Bengal in the name of promotion of sports—this money was not programme or project-based aid but simply donation—was clearly meant to create a force that would employ muscle power in favour of the lady and her outfit. The victory at the parliamentary polls has not ended her problems and in order to maintain hegemony in such a situation, forcible suppression of all opposition is an urgent necessity. It is true that Mamata Banerjee has rejected the policy of SEZ, but it is patently impossible for an increasingly corrupt regime with increasing reliance on muscle power to fight imperial globalization. In all probability, Mamata Banerjee’s men will resort to rigging, intimidation and false voting in the 2019 polls on a far larger scale, but the question is how far they will succeed. The CPI(M) looks utterly demoralized and there is no clear sign of a possible resurgence of the far left. Yet growing disillusionment with and antipathy towards the TMC may turn into a popular resistance against unfair poll practices, something like which was witnessed in 1977.

The significant rise in the vote share of the BJP merits a little introspection. The BJP has this time received the patronage of the corporate tycoons, and Narendra Modi is their blue-eyed boy. The gradually growing possibility that the BJP was going to ascend to power at the centre definitely created a small wave in West Bengal otherwise considered a red baston only the other day. The other side to the story is that the ideology of majoritarianism is still strong among the Bengal Hindu Middle Classes, although it is not always aggressive. One of its manifestations is the widely shared notion that Mamata Banerjee’s policy of granting allowance to the Imams of Masjids in Bengal is an appeasement of Muslims, although any intelligent person can see that this step has hardly any impact on the lives of the millions of poor muslims of West Bengal. The dormant majoritarianism, coupled with the disillusionment with the TMC and lack of hope in the CPI(M), has helped the BJP, which lacked muscle power, but not money power.

So, what is going to happen in West Bengal in the coming days is uncertain.

Vol. 46, No. 49, Jun 15 - 21, 2014