Goebbelsian Style

"Lies Repeated Become Truth!"

Bibekananda Ray

Right from May 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA-II regime began in Delhi, the party top brass have been publicly aiming to capture power in West Bengal.To that end, it changed the State President from a veteran to a dark horse from Kharagpur and revamped the party with new blood and more resources. In 2016 Assembly poll, it won only two seats out of 294 but in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll it dramatically increased its tally of MPs from the State to 18, four less than predicted by Mr Shah. Ever since its chorus of desire has become shriller through local satraps. With some two months to go for the poll, they have made the chorus louder through public and secret meetings, addressed by the party bosses, rallies, padayatra, rathayatra, "chai pe charcha", aar noi anyya, parivartan yatra and the ilk and press briefings. The party is solely in power in seven States, shares it with allies in ten others and is not in power in 14 but out of these, nowhere its lust for power is as shameless as in West Bengal, where it was a small fringe party after 1993 because of its part in demolition of Babri mosque with RSS volunteers. Two massive mandates–in 2014 and 2019–have made it go berserk to demand and plan the overthrow a Chief Minister, Mamata Bannerjee who unlike her kind is the most outspoken critic of Modi regime and the BJP and their inchoate nationalist agenda of making India a Hindu State. Almost every other day, visiting BJP top brass from Delhi are wooing people with populist gimmicks, like taking lunch (allegedly supplied by five-star hotels) squatting on floor with backward and adivasis families and workers, by citing (often wrongly) Rabindranath and betraying ignorance of Bengal's tradition and culture, to chime with her main charge that the they are 'aliens' or 'outsiders'. As the BJP breathes down her neck, defections from her party increase; the likely mandate on radar appears fractured, she gears up her car of development in sundry spheres. She had inherited a hefty loan of 26,000 crore rupees from the Left regime whose interest breaks her back; the largesse she announces everyday could bankrupt the State exchequer if she returned to power. Her achievements in the last ten years have for an impoverished state have indeed been splendid; if a brain-dead person in a Bengal village in 2011 woke up by a miracle like Washington Irving's Rip Van Wynkle, he would rub his eyes in wonder. Through every village runs at least one concrete all-weather road on which people walk, bicycles and battery driven rickshaws ply 24 hours; more dressed-up boys and girls, many on State-gifted bicycles ride out of homes on errands; many more colleges, institutes and universities have come up. Water resources have been augmented and cleaned, more acres have come under irrigation and more health centres are working. The police network has been expanded with security beefed up and the Panchayeti Raj has struck deeper roots. In January this year, she took the administration to the doors of people–an unprecedented move–where people could apply and be registered for diverse amelioration schemes; of these a free health insurance for all up to five lakh rupees has elicited a huge response and over a crore people are said to have applied and started getting the benefit in both government and private hospitals. Government and party workers have been deputed to every locality to solve sundry problems and fulfil needs. Free eye treatment facilities to remove cataract and provide free glasses to the poor. Like these, she is playing trump cards against the BJP, every day and shouting from the housetop that "we will be back!" She has just introduced a Rs 5 lunch for poor workers etc. giving subsidy on each; rations will be given free for the deserving whole life. Her other ongoing programmes, current and inherited from the previous regime have been given a boost in the Duare Sarkar and Parhay Samadhan ("Government at Doorstep" & "Solutions in locality") schemes. Unless people are really treacherous and appeased by the BJP, her return seems a foregone conclusion. Her party workers are so upbeat and working so hard for victory that if BJP is defeated, they may go after saffron workers and supporters who may have to flee, or go underground, to escape reprisal. Modi-Shah-Nadda are over-confident of win; the Election Commission, not above board in all its decisions in 2014 and 2019 polls and Central security forces, will make rigging impossible by the TMC or Left-Congress alliance grassroots workers and may even help the party and its allies to win, unethically. Rather unusually, 100 companies of Central forces have already arrived and are doing route marches, apparently to warn trouble-mongers before and during the poll; they normally arrive much later, after the schedule is announced.

Every day, be they in Delhi, West Bengal, or elsewhere, the BJP top brass reiterate their resolve since 2017 to make Bengal 'golden' and try to win Bengalis' hearts. Their favourite promise since 2017 when they took the resolve is to rebuild a 'Golden Bengal' (Sonaar Bangla), a phrase from a song by Rabindranath "I love thee, Oh, Golden Bengal"), that he composed and sang in chorus in 1905 to unite Bengalis against Lord Curzon's Division of Bengal. The word did not refer to people or government but a territory endowed by Nature with rich flora and fauna that the British Raj truncated for administrative reasons. They might not have read or heard the song (far less his other works) but as in other matters, the PMO or the party might have tutored them, accordingly. Bengal was 'golden' with Nature's bestowals in 1905; it has remained so even after division in 1947; If they promised a 'Diamond or Platinum Bengal', it would have some meaning. If they know alchemy, or has a touchstone or Midas' touch, why could not they, in three consecutive regimes build a Sonaar Bharat, i.e., a 'Golden India'? Nadda said, the poet was born in the Viswa Bharati the university he founded in 1922 at the age of 60. The BJP knows that Rabindranath, Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, Shri Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi and Satyajit Ray are dear to and pride of Bengalis'; so they have to feign that they too loved them. Vidyasagar's bust was demolished during a rally by Amit Shah in 2019; it was promptly rebuilt by the BJP out of guilt. Shah often leads a rally from Vivekananda's ancestral house in north Kolkata, visits Dakshineswar and Belur Math where the monk and his guru lived. They keep quiet about Raja Rammohan Roy and Vidyasagar, because the former was a critic of Hinduism and the latter a virtual atheist. Their deification of Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the Jan Sangh and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, a party ideologue is not shared by others. Before landing in a place, they learn what they were famous for and mention it in their speeches. Mr Nadda predated a temple in Katwa by 200 years, where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was initiated in Vaishnavism; where he was not. Before a tribal area meeting, Mr Nadda garlanded a statue of an Adivasi icon, taking it to be Birsa Munda's (who fought against the British). Similar cultural faux pas abound; when pointed out they do not admit or apologise. Thus, the BJP's moves to come closer to Bengali heart have turned out to be ludicrous and counter-productive. RSS and Bajrangbali fanatics shout Jai Shri Ram, a greeting phrase in north India, force and even kill or maim those who do not; it has become a red rag to Ms Banerjee, with which she was greeted as she began speaking in the official 125th birthday anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on Victoria Memorial lawn on 23rd January. The I&B Minister is arranging telecast of Satyajit Ray movies and planning a medal in his name to award excellence in film-making.

Last year, they organised Durga Puja, alleging obstruction to the Bengalis' merriest festival' the fact is, she attends them with zest, every year. In many localities, temples and idols and worships of Shri Hanumanji have come up, a wholly north Indian favourite. Of all Hindu Avatars, Shri Ramchandra is its most adored but Bengalis, mostly being Shakta adore Shri Krishna more and make fun of Shri Hanuman, Lord Rama's acolyte. Navaraatri which used to be observed by non-Bengali women and girls are now coming into vogue among Bengali women too. Across the State, Rama temples are fewer than shrines of Krishna, Shiva and Kali; new Rama temples are coming up.

Why the BJP has scant regard for the latter-day (Dwapar aeon) incarnation is a mystery? A medieval Bengali poet, Krittibas of Nadia (1381-1461)translated Ramayana some 200 years before Tulsidas of Varanasi (1532-1623) wrote Ramacharita Manas but even then Lord Rama has never been more adorable than Lord Krishna. Strangely, another Bengali medieval poet, Kashiramdas (of Bardhamaan, born 1650) translated at least first four parts of the Mahabharata in Bengali verse but had greater vogue. The BJP wants to install Rama in Bengalis' hearts; to this end, the BJP, the RSS and the VHP chant Jai Shri Rama slogan and force others to chant it even to the point of killing or maiming them if they refuse and to tease invitee West Bengal Chief Minister when she rose to speak in a commemorative meeting on the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on lawn of Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. It is customary for every party to announce its Chief Minister candidate before the poll but the BJP is not doing it except saying that he or she would be "a son of the soil".

Politically too, the BJP trio, Dilip Ghosh and Locket Chatterjee are opening cans of lies, half-truths and exaggerations, day in day out; they are promptly exposing by TMC. Many of the Modi regime welfare schemes are similar to and announced after Mamata regime launched them. Beti Bachao Beti Parhao came long after Ms Bannerjee's globally hailed Kanyashri, giving girls who go for graduate studies without marriage. Under no Central scheme, bicycles are being given free to school and college students, as West Bengal government is doing. Her Shasthyashree health insurance scheme preceded Mr Modi's much-vaunted Ayushman; she is not letting the Central scheme be implemented as it would be a duplicate move. Similarly, Mr Modi's KissanSamman grant is much slimmer than hers. Wherever Central schemes preceded hers, she is not obstructing. Pradhanmantri Aabas Yojana was mooted by Indira Gandhi in 1976. Everybody in the BJP is screaming about collapse of law and order in her regime but the fact is political victims and casualties are more in the TMC than in the saffron party, some of the latter have been killed out of personal enmity and vendetta, as police probes brought out. In many places, BJP and RSS cadres provoked skirmishes, e.g., over aar noi annyaya to trap TMC workers.

Being in a federal government, facts about West Bengal or any other State are not unknown to them and Ms Banerjee's stands on various issues but the BJP top brass must malign to wean away her supporters. India's party politics has degenerated into calumny soccer, even at personal level (e.g., Shubhendu Adhikary and Abhishek Banerjee). They go by the English saying: "To kill a dog, one must give it a bad name!'. Common voters have no time and acumen to weigh the pros and cons of a party, or a candidate; they go by herd mentality and family directive. In ten years, the BJP has accused her with planning dynastic succession by anointing her nephew, Abhishek and condone his alleged practice of ransom, of enriching her other kin, inciting her party hooligans to maim or kill its workers, of using the police for political purposes, of shelving Central schemes, thereby depriving people of government bonanza, of letting illegal migrants from Bangladesh enter and settling in the State, of "destroying the economy and culture of Bengal etc. In all these, the party's Chanakya, the Home Minister, Amit Shah took the lead and emulated Joseph Goebbels (1897-1845), Hitler as Propaganda Minister (1933-1945) who relentlessly spat venom on Jews in Germany, leading to the Holocaust. Mr Nadda's and Mr Shah's bloated immobile faces reflect no emotion when they speak on the government's resolves and unfulfilled tasks like identifying and expelling illegal migrants from across the border and award of citizenship to some migrants (not Muslims). All these make his a rogue party- like a 'hydra-header' serpent, spouting poison. He seems to believe in Goebbels' style, as revealed in his diaries after his suicide in 1945:

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it; or "Never to admit a fault, or wrong, never to accept concentrate on one enemy at a time blame that enemy for everything that goes wrong; take advantage of every opportunity to raise a political whirlwind."

She is playing trump cards against Mr Modi, every other day by announcing or inaugurating new schemes and welfare programme- like Chokher Aloya (free eye camps) and Maa lunches @ Rs five, to which people are responding in hordes, the latest being "Bengal likes home Eve", at which foul-mouth Dilip Ghosh quipped: "Bengal likes her house-maid"! The Goebbelsian tactics is being exposed and is unlikely to succeed in the run-up to a historic poll a few weeks away. The ideas and ideals of the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP top brass often merge, as if they were trained in an esoteric school. When they open mouths on a national issue, all bark , implying they are sides of one coin only. West Bengal has to take the first decision.Not only West Bengal, other States have to someday decide whether to,

i.     Remain Secular or become a theocracy;
ii.     Have Muslims integrated, or expelled;
iii.    Make India a Hindu or a pluralist Rashtra;
iv.    Embrace Science & Technology, or Superstition;
v.     Promote western or ayurvedic medicine;
vi.    Create jobs, or a jobless census;
vii.   Shrink public sector, or boost private;
viii.   Retain, or abolish MSP for farm products;
ix.    Go by truth, or propaganda;
x.    Dislodge Gandhi, Make Savarkar Father of the Nation.

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Vol. 53, No. 39, Mar 28 - Apr 3, 2021