Is Hindutva Hanging By A Thread In Bengal?

Hindutva is no longer the rabble rouser vote bank as it was in the last national election. When the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party won an emphatic victory in the recent Delhi assembly election, opposition leaders were quick to point that the Bharatiya Janata Party will have to recalibrate its strategy of polarisation now that it had been roundly rejected by the electorate of yet another state.

However, it would be extremely difficult for the saffron party to abandon its majoritarian agenda in the forthcoming state elections. For the BJP, hardline Hindutva, strident nationalism and communal talk is an article of faith.

Hindutva seems to have worked for BJP in the last election. It probably sees the current run of defeats as aberrations. Besides the Hindutva strategy helps divert attention from bread and butter issues at a time when the economy is tottering. An election is the occasion for the BJP to propagate its ideology.

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In fact, the BJP’s high-decibel poll campaign in Delhi with its focus on the Shaheen Bagh protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act was meant not just to consolidate the Hindu vote in the Capital but also to send out a message across the country that this agitation is led by minorities and that the amended citizenship law actually enjoys popular support.

Among the opposition leaders, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee appears most vulnerable in this regard. Determined to add West Bengal to its kitty, the BJP has opted for a brazenly communal narrative to dethrone Banerjee. Having met with remarkable success in the last Lok Sabha election when it surprised everyone by winning 18 seats and increased its vote share to 40 percent, the BJP has every reason to persist with this strategy. It remains undeterred by the fact that its attempts to focus on Article 370 and triple talaq did not cut much ice with the voters in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

It will not be surprising if the BJP’s polarising and divisive rhetoric gets more shrill as it begins preparations for next year’s assembly election in a state which has a 27 percent Muslim population.

The very fact that the BJP has re-elected Dilip Ghosh as president of the party’s West Bengal unit, is a clear message that the saffron party has no intention of going back on its communal agenda. Known for using vitriolic language, Ghosh is constantly stoking controversies with his inciting statements. Ghosh was in the eye of a storm recently when he described the anti-CAA protesters as “illiterate and uneducated” who are being fed biryani and “paid with foreign funds” to continue with their agitation. He constantly refers to the issue of infiltration in his speeches and has, on several occasions, thundered that all Bangladeshi Muslims in the state will be identified and chased out of India!

ALSO READ: ‘NRC Will Be A Disaster In Bengal

Not only has the BJP campaign reopened the old wounds inflicted in the communal riots during the state’s partition of 1905, it has also been helped by the fact that Mamata Banerjee is seen to be appeasing the minorities. The Trinamool Congress chief who is personally leading the prolonged protests against the amended citizenship law as well as the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register, has given the BJP enough fodder to push ahead with its communal agenda.

Undoubtedly the Delhi defeat came as a rude shock for the BJP but, at the same time, its leaders believe the party increased its tally from three to eight seats and improved its vote share from 32 to 38 percent because it made the anti-CAA protests as the centre piece of its campaign.

It’s still too early to say if the BJP’s strategy will succeed but, at present, Mamata Banerjee has the first mover advantage over her political rival. While the saffron party lacks a strong party organisation in West Bengal and has no credible chief ministerial candidate, the Trinamool Congress chief is already in election mode.

ALSO READ: West Bengal Follows AAP Model

Like Kejriwal, she has stopped taking personal potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is instead emphasising her governance record. She has also taken the lead in articulating the dangers of the amended citizenship law, the NPR and NRC. Mamata Banerjee is taking no chances as she realizes she can ill-afford to underestimate the BJP as she had done in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

But before it goes for broke in West Bengal, the BJP will test the waters in Bihar which is headed for polls later this year. Not only does the state have a 17 percent Muslim population, the opposition (the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress) has staunchly opposed the CAA, reason enough for the saffron party to polarise the electorate on religious lines.

Besides, the BJP is banking on its alliance partner, Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (U) president Nitish Kumar to act as a buffer against its strident campaign. Though Nitish Kumar has endorsed the CAA, he has not framed his support for the law on communal lines. Moreover, the Bihar chief minister measures his words carefully and is not known to use extreme language. This, the BJP feels, should help the alliance offset any possible adverse repercussions of the saffron party’s high-pitched tirade against those opposing the CAA.

However, if Mamata Benarjee can repeat AAP’s massive success in Bengal, voices in Bengal may start questioning Hindutva. Hindutva may be hanging by a thread.

Narendra Modi In Varanasi

PM Disclosed Horse Trading Plan: TMC

Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Monday filed a complaint against Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the Election Commission over the alleged horse trading of party leaders.

“The complaint against Modi for horse-trading has been filed with ECI on Monday at 7 pm,” TMC spokesperson Derek O’Brien tweeted.

Earlier in the day, the TMC leader had hit back at Prime Minister Modi for his remark that 40 TMC MLAs are in touch with him, asking if he is campaigning or is indulging in horse trading.

Taking to Twitter, O’Brien called Modi “Expiry Babu PM” and tweeted, “Expiry Babu PM, let’s get this straight. Nobody will go with you. Not even one councillor.”

“Are you election campaigning or horse trading! Your expiry date is near. Today, we are complaining to the Election Commission. Charging you with horse trading. #LokSabhaElection2019.”

Addressing a public rally in Serampore in West Bengal, Prime Minister Modi had said that 40 TMC MLAs are in touch with him and there is nothing that can save Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Related News: Mamata Slams BJP For Ignoring Elders

“Didi, on May 23, when the results will come, the lotus will bloom everywhere and your MLAs will leave you. Didi, your 40 MLAs are in contact with me even now,” he said at the public meeting.

Eight parliamentary constituencies in West Bengal — Baharampur, Krishnagar, Ranaghat, Burdwan East, Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur and Birbhum, went to polls under the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha election.

There are 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.

(ANI)

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BJP HImmatnagar Rally

6 States That Could Make Or Break Modi

The BJP tally in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan will decide how it fares in 2019 Lok Sabha elections

Plumb in the middle of India’s seven-phase mega national elections, the prevailing mood is one that is marked palpably by confusion. India’s elections have often proved to be notoriously unpredictable. The tsunami-like wave that Mr Narendra Modi rode on to win in 2014 had taken everyone—including the most seasoned Indian psephologists—completely by surprise. It isn’t different this time. No one appears to have a clue. Journalists scouring the length and breadth of the country report widely divergent readings of the mood of India’s 820-million strong voters. Some say Prime Minister Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could return to power, albeit with less than the overwhelming majority it won last time (in 2014, the BJP won 282 of 543 seats; and along with its allies, its tally was 336). Others say the people’s verdict could result in an indecisive outcome with the united opposition, led by the Congress, eating into the BJP’s vote shares.

There are six states though that could decide the fate of the BJP: Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of parliamentary seats (80); Maharashtra (48), Bihar (40), Madhya Pradesh (29), Gujarat (26), and Rajasthan (25). That makes for a total of 248 seats; in 2014, the BJP won 194 of them. In other states with a large number of parliamentary constituencies, such as Bengal (42), and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (which together have 42), and the three southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka (which together account for 87 seats), the BJP’s footprint is still weak and it will have to depend on the electoral strength of its allies in order to add to the National Democratic Alliance coalition that it leads. Moreover, in some of these states, the regional parties (viz. the Trinamool Congress in Bengal; and the AIADMK and DMK in Tamil Nadu) hold sway with the national parties, BJP and Congress, having much less sway among voters.

So, much of how the BJP fares in the ongoing elections will depend on how many seats it gets to win in the six states that powered its victory in 2014. In three of them—UP, Maharashtra, and Bihar—where the BJP won handsomely in 2014, this time around it faces a stiff fight. In Uttar Pradesh, the two regional parties, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), usually daggers drawn, have forged a surprise alliance to fight against the BJP.

In Bihar, the Congress, which got battered in the 2014 national elections (it got a total of 44 seats), has tied up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). In Maharashtra, where the BJP has an alliance with the regional Shiv Sena, the tie-up has been under strain. Notably, in UP, the alliance between the SP and BSP covers a swathe of castes and religious communities—the SP has the support of the Muslims and the Yadavs while the BSP, led by Mayawati, has the support of the Dalits and other backward castes. In Bihar, the Congress and RJD, contesting together, could prove to be a formidable challenger to the BJP.

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In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, in recent assembly elections, the Congress was able to win and form the state governments. That could be a critical factor in determining who the voters in those states would choose in the national elections, giving the Congress an edge in the choice. In 2014, the BJP won 71 of the 80 seats in UP; 22 of the 40 in Bihar; all of the 26 seats in Gujarat; 23 of the 48 in Maharashtra; 27 of the 29 in Madhya Pradesh; and all 25 in Rajasthan.

This time, things could be much tougher for it. The BJP and its allies would need 272 seats in the 543-strong Parliament in order to decisively win. But, although Mr Modi and his party are hoping to get extra numbers from Bengal, Odisha and some of the southern states to make up for the losses in the six crucial states, it is not something it can bank on. The regional parties in these states are formidably strong, with some such as the Trinamool Congress having deep, cadre-based support bases.

In the six states that powered its 2014 victory, the BJP has taken steps to garner support in the face of a stronger opposition. In UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, it has tried to woo the non-Yadav and other backward classes by according the status of a constitutional body to the National Commission for Other Backward Classes, which decides on job reservations for India’s most backward classes. It has also tried to alleviate the apprehensions of the poorer sections of India’s upper castes (who fear discrimination when it comes to jobs) by reserving 10% of jobs for upper-caste people coming under the “economically weaker section”.

But still the going will be tough for Mr Modi’s party. In UP, the BSP-SP alliance is strong and theoretically covers a large swathe of castes and communities. For instance, Muslims who have remained almost universally apprehensive of Mr Modi’s government will be unlikely to vote for the BJP or any of its allies.

ALSO READ: It It Advantage Modi?

In two of the six crucial states, however, the BJP could leverage Mr Modi’s own popularity. In a TV interview recently, Mr Modi boasted: “Modi hi Modi ko challenge kiya hai” (Modi is the only challenger to Modi). In states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, his popularity could translate into regional waves of support when people cast their votes. But in the recent state assembly election in Gujarat, while the BJP won and formed the government, the Congress fared better in terms of the number of votes it managed to get. And, in Maharashtra, where its fate will be partly governed by the support extended by its partner, the Shiv Sena, the two have had regular spats in recent years, differing over many issues.

Many believe that in 2014, when the BJP won 194 seats in the six mentioned states, it had exhausted the maximum number that it could have hoped for from those. And that a repeat of that performance now looks unlikely.

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'Dui Hazaar Unneesh (2019), BJP Fineesh'

Dui hazaar uneesh, BJP fineesh (In 2019, the BJP will be finished),” Banerjee, who invited the leaders of the opposition parties as well as Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray to her January 19 rally in Kolkata, told reporters. Banerjee, who has been at the forefront of efforts to rally opposition parties for an anti-BJP front, spent the second day of her Delhi visit meeting leaders of various parties including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Besides leaders of the Congress, TDP, YSR(Congress), DMK, RJD, SP and JD(S), she also met BJP veteran L K Advani, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and dissident BJP leaders. The rally is seen as not just a show of opposition unity but also an attempt to catapult Banerjee to the centrestage. “We are all for all. We will take a decision on collective leadership. If all opposition political parties can join hands and work together in Parliament, then why not fight unitedly outside,” the TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister told reporters after her nearly half-an-hour long meeting with the Gandhis at 10, Janpath, the residence of Sonia Gandhi. On the Congress’ indication of its willingness to accept her candidature as opposition’s PM face, she said, “I am not for any chair, our aim is to defeat the BJP.” Almost all the opposition parties are holding preliminary talks to put a united fight against the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls next year. Banerjee said she met both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and discussed the NRC issue as 40 lakh people have not been included in it and genuine voters had been kept out. “We discussed the political situation. We discussed how the opposition can together take on the BJP because it knows that it will not come back to power,” she said. Asked about the prime ministerial candidate of the proposed anti-BJP front, she said, “it will be decided later. The first priority is to defeat the BJP. The BJP has to be defeated first.” To a query on Amit Shah’s criticism of her on the NRC issue, she said, “I am not his servant. Why should I reply to his comments.” “Gali ka jawaab hum gaali se nahin denge. Yeh hamari parampara hai. (We will not reply to an abuse with an abuse, that is our tradition),” she said. “The BJP is scared and nervous politically due to the unity of opposition parties. The BJP knows what will happen to them in 2019 as they will not come back to power. That is why they are trying to create such an atmosphere and doing all this,” she said. On her meeting with leaders of various political parties, she said, “We know every political leader. I am happy to meet all of them.” Attacking the Centre on Assam’s National Register of Citizens final draft, she said, “People whose names have been kept out are from Bihar, UP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal. We want them to live peacefully. Some of them are living for 100 ears for five generations in Assam. How can you do this to them?” Banerjee yesterday warned of a civil war and blood bath in the country in case 40 lakh people of Assam are left out of the NRC. “I do not know what the BJP wants — a civil water or a blood bath. But we do not want it,” she said today. On a tie-up with the Congress in West Bengal, she said every party will take their own decision. “I cannot interfere in the Congress’ decisions. We believe that the strongest in a state should take on the BJP,” she said. The TMC office in Parliament was abuzz with meetings after Banerjee arrived there today. The TMC chief met Congress leaders Gulam Nabi Azad, and Ahmed Patel, Samajwadi Party leaders Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan, DMK leader Tiruchi Siva, YSR Congress leader Vijaysai Reddy, RJD leaders Misa Bharti, Jayprakash Narayan Yadav among others. Banerjee met JD(S) leader Deve Gowda at Karnataka Bhavan and invited him to the rally. She also met Advani at his chamber in Parliament House .”I went to meet him and enquired about his health,” she told reporters. Suspended BJP member of parliament Kirti Azad hailed her as a great leader and said that her efforts to consolidate all opposition parties are “commendable”. The TMC chief later went to the Central Hall of the Parliament to meet other opposition leaders and invited them to the rally. Banerjee also appealed to all the opposition parties to send a joint delegation to the Election Commission against EVM tampering and to press for holding polls on ballots. “All opposition parties should go to EC on this matter,” Banerjee told the leaders. Interestingly, Banerjee extended an invitation for the rally to the Shiv Sena chief through Raut who said the party would take a decision on it. Though a constituent of the NDA, the Sena has been openly critical of the Modi government. (PTI)]]>