Mamata Banerjee has again reiterated who the real enemy is for her in the state of West Bengal. On the occasion of Martyrs Day which her party Trinamool Congress observes each year on July 21, she targeted the BJP again at a huge gathering by saying, "They had one Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and this time (2014 Lok Sabha polls) they could add only one seat to the total. I am telling you the figure will remain the same. It will never be three (from two) and in the next election it will come down to zero.”
This gathering was organised to commemorate the killing of 13 Congress activists in 1993 in the police firing ordered by the then Jyoti Basu government, when activists in the political rally led by her allegedly tried to enter the state secretariat. But strangely, unlike previous years, the West Bengal chief minister spoke nothing against the Left government in question against whom she constituted an inquiry to investigate the police firing. She only made an appeal to persons supporting the Left ideology “to join Trinamool and work for the people with dignity”. On this occasion, three Congress and one CPM MLA joined her party praising the efforts of ‘didi’.
But this appeal also shows that Mamata's understanding of the state’s changing political scenario is far better than many would expect. Just a day before Martyr’s Day, senior leaders from the Left party Forward Bloc’s youth wing joined the BJP along with their supporters. According to political observers, no such split had been witnessed in Bengal in the recent past where so many Left supporters had joined a right-wing party. State BJP leaders have claimed that the entire Yuva League of Forward Bloc got assimilated with their party.
So there is plenty of context to what Mamata Banerjee said at the rally. She clearly knows that after the Lok Sabha debacle, Left parties are facing a crisis and dealing with a serious internal tussle among its supporters. While the Left leadership is not budging to hand over the baton to the new generation even after their humiliating performance, a section within their parties has become restless and finds little scope for political growth in them. Both BJP and Mamata are working seriously to welcome these dissidents to join the ranks in their parties and improve the organisation at the grassroot.
The BJP has increased its vote percentage in Bengal by 11 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and it aims to snatch the role of opposition from the Left by making an effort to build a robust organisation. Since the election results, bitterness ensued within the ranks of the Forward Bloc who wanted change in the state leadership which is now controlled by veteran Ashoke Ghosh. BJP wanted to use this opportunity and its state secretary Asim Sarkar was working secretly to welcome this group in their party for some time.
While joining the BJP at the Netaji Shubhash Institute Hall at Sealdah on Sunday, former Forward Bloc MLA from Barasat, Bithika Mandal said, “We were struggling inside the party but the state leadership did not bother to listen us. Today they are calling us rotten fruits for joining the BJP. Let me be clear that if we are rotten then the entire Forward Bloc has itself got rotten.”
The question of how leaders belonging to the Left can join a party like BJP is coming to the fore time and again. Shashi Agnihotri, leader from the women’s wing of the Forward Bloc offered an explanation saying, “Leaving the Left ideology and joining a right-wing party like BJP was a difficult decision for us. But BJP looks quite energetic in the state with a positive power whereas the Left leadership is looking hapless, with no direction or answer to the Trinamool’s terror unleashed on the people.”
Most of the Forward Bloc leaders heaped praise on Narendra Modi during their joining ceremony and talked about his strong leadership. They also praised BJP's efforts to send a Central team twice to support workers at the grassroot level following any violent attacks on them, unlike the Left parties, who they alleged, have deserted them. At the moment, the BJP has appointed Meenakshi Lekhi and Siddharth Nath Singh as incharge of Bengal.
Post poll violence by Trinamool Congress supporters on the beleaguered Left party workers has been touted as one of the main reasons for this torrent of support for BJP in Bengal. This was also discussed in a much hyped meeting between the Left leadership and the West Bengal CM in her secretariat last month where Mamata directly asked them to explain why they couldn't stop such splits within their party. Left leaders answered that if violence continued unabated and democratic spaces shrank in the state, then only ‘communal forces’ would gain.
At the Martyrs Day rally, Mamata raised the pitch of threat from communalism as well. “No communal or political party has any political future in Bengal” she spoke and warned TMC supporters by saying, “Always stay alert as they (BJP) might hatch some communal conspiracy in the state.”