One of the most heart wrenching, irony-soaked episodes during the Karnataka election campaign was the ludicrous spectacle of a few superannuated Congress leaders — led by Manmohan Singh — writing to the President of India directing him to ‘caution’ Prime Minister Modi on the kind of language he used during the campaign. The letter, a prattle of sorts, had three categories of signatories — the superannuated — cold storage leaders of the Congress — Motilal Vora, Karan Singh and the like; those who looked the other way when mega scams were rocking the UPA II boat — Manmohan Singh, AK Antony et al; and those who aided and actively abetted corruption — such as P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal. One thing that unites all these signatories in one category is the fact that they are all rootless durbaris who, instead of trying to re-invent the Congress after its worst debacle in 2014, have kept paying obeisance to an increasingly erratic dynastic scion determined to wreck the pillars of our democracy and undermine the democratic spirit.
The struggle for the future of India is against three groups: Those who perpetrate political terrorism; those who allow it to continue unabated and; from self-professed (rootless) leaders.
However, why do I bring notice to an irrelevant piece of rag that should have ideally found its way into the dustbin? It is because, right when these Congress ‘stalwarts’ were writing to the President of India to ‘caution’ Modi, their own partymen in West Bengal, led by their leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, were being bludgeoned, intimidated, abused and assaulted by goons and lumpens of Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC). They, like all other opposition parties, were in the fray for the panchayat elections in the State and their grassroots workers were eagerly looking forward to be part of the panchayat polls.
Thus, while Mamata Banerjee’s lumpens knifed and hammered Congress workers on the ground — though the most brutal assault was reserved for the BJP workers — their rootless leaders in Delhi — all leading durbaris of the party’s ‘first family’ themselves living in the vacuum of a Lyutens mindset, deluded by visions of grandeur and relevance, some of whom have spent a lifetime lecturing on humanism and democracy, were complaining to the President of India, not against the bloodletting that Mamata Banerjee’s TMC had been indulging in by preventing the legitimate exercise of democratic rights. They were, instead complaining against a false scenario of a Prime Minister not living up to the dignity of his office. The Congress leadership has never been particular about protecting and standing by its workers and those who struggle on the ground to keep the party functioning and relevant. For them, it is the ‘family’ which matters, the rest is incidental — the concept and design of the ‘parivaar party’ has been clearly delineated.
Similarly, while Mamata’s goons had unleashed a reign of terror in which Congress workers were also victims, Abhishek Manu Singhvi was appealing to the Supreme Court on the Karnataka issue, having being elected to the Rajya Sabha on ‘Didi’s’ munificence, he had become a slave, he dare not sympathise with his party’s workers who were being intimidated. It took a Narendra Modi to speak of the panchayat poll violence in West Bengal as the ‘death of democracy’ and to reiterate the point that workers and candidates from all parties, except the one ruling in Bengal, were afflicted and being prevented from exercising their democratic rights.
While the Congress’s philosophers and economists were busy in trying to interpret and examine Narendra Modi’s lexicon — they were hurt because Modi had actually taken head on the Congress dynast — their workers in West Bengal were being brutally done away with by one of their close allies — the TMC. Another irony-cased issue for the Congress in West Bengal is that Mamata Banerjee has, since the Assembly election in 2016, poached 11 Congress MLAs. While the party in West Bengal is gradually disintegrating, while the once formidable Dr BC Roy’s legacy is being wiped out with the decimation of the Congress in the State, its philosopher and economist leaders are playing fiddle and paying obeisance to the ‘dynasty’, they dare not protest Mamata’s poaching of their party in Bengal.
However, the issue here in the space of this column is West Bengal and the near 45-day trauma that the State and its democratic space had to undergo. One thing clear from the panchayat poll results is that the BJP has emerged as the principal opposition party in the State. BJP chief Amit Shah’s repeated exhortation, that the more the Lotus is sought to be crushed, the more will it bloom has actually been proved right. Despite severe repression, assault and intimidation, with the BJP’s workers being killed, its women workers assaulted and molested; despite being victims of targeted bombing by TMC lumpens, the BJP workers resisted political terrorism and proved their mettle. Across a vast swathe, including the Jangalmahal areas, the BJP has registered its presence at the grassroots. The shocking footage of ballot papers being stamped on counting day by TMC lumpens has revealed the actual condition of democracy in the State. The fact that BJP ballot papers were being singled out for this exercise at invalidation is indicative of the heat that the ruling TMC has begun to feel at the BJP’s expansion at the grassroots.
Mamata Banerjee-led TMC had unleashed a cycle of violence against the BJP candidates as well as their family members. Pursuing typically fascist methods, once used by the Left front cadres to threaten and subdue Opposition candidates, the TMC lumpens too began threatening and dissuading Opposition candidates from filing their nominations. The main targets of their attacks and intimidation have been BJP workers who were forcefully prevented from contesting the panchayat elections.
So gruesome has been the TMC violence that it has seen workers being killed, women being molested and manhandled — in fact, TMC goons had gone around villages, threatening BJP workers, telling them that if they dared to contest, they should first buy for their women at home bales of white cloth used to cover cadavers and then proceed for filing their nominations. This was the exact modus operandi adopted by the CPI(M) harmads — armed and hired lumpens — who would, at gunpoint, threaten Opposition workers and make a mockery of democracy. The TMC cadres and the party’s mercenaries, with express support of TMC supremo, unleashed exactly such a cycle of violence.
So intense and thorough has been TMC’s terrorisation of democracy in Bengal that in Mamata’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s Lok Sabha constituency, Diamond Harbour, the Opposition was unable to file nominations in over 93 per cent of the seats, while in Birbhum, overseen by Mamata’s favourite henchmen, the district president Anubrata Mondol, the picture is similar.
In fact, Anubrata coerced and threatened candidates from withdrawing their nominations or having filed them, to switch over to the TMC. Both Abhishek and Anubrata — Mamata’s favourites in her control for Bengal — have actually lived up to her hope of controlling Bengal through terrorising the people and by ensuring that the democratic space in the State keeps shrinking. In this, she has surpassed the communists, who adhered to the philosophy of limited terror and limited violence in order to keep the proletariat in line and disciplined.
By resorting to violence with the help of anti-social elements, Mamata Banerjee has, while she keeps lecturing us on the need to protect the Constitution, put together by Dr Ambedkar — has herself defiled the sanctity and purity of the Constitution by turning the election process into game of muscles, fear and blood. TMC goons and lumpens with country made arms, batons and iron rods have been knifing, bombing BJP workers, vandalising shops, manhandling women workers and terrorising localities. BJP party offices across the State, especially in rural areas, are being vandalised and torched. The case of Raiganj was for all to see, where TMC harmad groups went on a rampage, breaking shops, openly wielding arms, hurling bombs and expletives. CPI(M) cadres too have been at the receiving end of what they have themselves meted out people during their three decades in power. Strangely, their leaders in Delhi blame Modi for the violence and are very reluctant in naming the actual perpetrators on the ground!
BJP workers were beaten up inside the SDO offices while trying to file their nominations or were prevented from entering the SDO offices for filing their nomination. A case in point is that of Bilash Lakshman, BJP leader from Khanakul’s Gobindapur in Hooghly. Lakshman had come to collect his nomination paper for the No 49 Zilla Parishad seat of Khanakul. BJP Kisan Morcha leader of Khanakul Tapan Mondal accompanied him. They were abducted in front of the Deputy Magistrate, taken out of the office and badly beaten up and manhandled by TMC goons.
While Keshab Koyal of Sandeshkhali-1, of Basirhat Subdivision, in N 24 Parganas too faced a similar situation when armed TMC goons picked him up from the BDO’s office and prevented. BJP workers who were filing the nomination form sitting in the BJP office at Minakhan, Basirhat Subdivision, N 24 Parganas, were attacked and their forms torn, the party office vandalised and workers badly beaten up. The Minakhan BJP office is next to the police station. BJP worker in Purulia, Bhim Sen Nandi had to be hospitalised after being severely beaten by TMC goons.
Such incidents have occurred and are occurring in large numbers across the State. Incidents of knifing and bombing has become rampant, the police forces are unable to or are unwilling to bring the situation under control. With the rise in nominations on BJP symbol, the TMC got rattled and resorted to unleashing violence against BJP workers and their families. However, BJP workers have also resisted TMC lumpenism and have, in areas, recovered inch-by-inch lost ground, it is this that makes the TMC and its leadership nervous, they wish to control Bengal unchallenged but lack the capacity to do it in a democratic manner. Both the TMC and Mamata Banerjee have failed the Indian Constitution, and the struggle against them must be further strengthened for democracy in West Bengal to be able to survive. While she poses as the foremost protector of the Constitution, Mamata Banerjee has consistently displayed that she is an inveterate fascist when it comes to controlling the politics of West Bengal.
But the most deafening silence on the ruling party sponsored IS-like violence in Bengal is from those who have consistently spread false and malicious propaganda against Prime Minister Modi and the BJP. Those placard carrying professional protestors and marchers, those five star activists, who have always created false narratives, have been conspicuously silent, they do not have the gumption to challenge Mamata, they are comfortable with attacking Modi and just because there is no Modi in West Bengal, they keep silent when democracy is being throttled in that State, they are complicit in this subversion.
The challenge for us is from three quarters: Those who perpetrate political terrorism and cover it with a veneer of being respectful to the Constitution — as Mamata Banerjee has done and is doing in West Bengal; from those who allow that kind of terrorisation to continue unabated because protesting against it will not serve their larger hate-inspired goal of demonising Modi; and finally from those self-professed rootless leaders — now mostly found in the Congress — who instead of trying to rein in their increasingly imbecile and volatile party president, continue showering plaudits on his effort at destablising the country, compromising our Constitutional institutions and at subverting democratic mandates. The larger struggle for the future of India, therefore, is against these three elements.