* Snigdhendu Bhattacharya’s “Mission Bengal: A Saffron Experiment ebook brings alive the swiftly altering politics of the state
For nearly three a long time after Independence — and the Partition of India — West Bengal was dominated, like most different states, by the Congress Get together; for a quick interregnum between 1967 and 1972, it was changed by the Bangla Congress, a splinter group. For 34 straight years from 1977, the Left Entrance presided over the fortunes of the state. In 2011, the entrance was deposed by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, a breakaway group from the Congress. 5 years later, with the Congress confined to a couple northern districts and the Left Entrance in a shambles, it seemed as if the Trinamool Congress, too, was set for a future.
Nevertheless, a shrinking Congress and the Left Entrance created a vacuum within the opposition. And the Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP) eagerly stepped in to fill it. The social gathering was in energy in Delhi below a robust and decided management that was seeking to broaden the BJP’s footprint throughout the nation. Extra vital, the organisation from which it took its ideological inspiration — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — had been working systematically on the bottom for many years, rubbing the injuries of the Partition, to carve out a robust Hindu following in a state the place 30 per cent of the inhabitants is Muslim. The details that undivided Bengal was dominated by Muslim kings earlier than the arrival of the British, and the idea of Hindutva was born right here within the 19th century have come useful for the BJP’s Mission Bengal. In 2013, it was a fringe political social gathering within the state. Three years later, it had gained 19 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats. With state elections due in lower than a 12 months, it’s greater than evident that the BJP is working time beyond regulation to grab energy in West Bengal.
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya’s Mission Bengal: A Saffron Experiment, subsequently, comes at an opportune second. Mixing on-the-ground reportage and analysis, the ebook brings alive the swiftly altering politics of the state. Even because it paperwork the BJP’s spectacular progress, it locations this story towards the backdrop of the historical past of Bengal and up to date politics. Within the 19th century, it witnessed parallel strands of Hindu nationalism and Muslim separatism; the Partition additional sharpened spiritual fault strains. Lengthy years of Left rule meant that Hindus who had suffered throughout the Partition had been biding their time; a porous border with Bangladesh noticed financial migrants — lots of whom had been Muslim — streaming in. Some had been included within the voters’ lists. Collectively, this created a fertile floor for the Hindu proper wing.
A Bengali and a long-time observer of Bengal politics, Bhattacharya, a Kolkata-based journalist, just isn’t shocked by the rise of the BJP within the state. Three a long time of the Left Entrance’s rule had merely masked the simmering Hindutva sentiments that lurked beneath. One of the fascinating chapters within the ebookBengal, Islam, Hindutva captures the historic fault strains between communities and helps the reader higher perceive the dramatic political modifications we’re witnessing now — from Lal Salaam to Jai Shri Ram.
The dormant Hindu communal sentiment, which the Left Entrance had labored skilfully to suppress, was not missed on eager observers. However, maybe, nobody had anticipated such a fast rise of the BJP. Travelling by the state throughout the elections in 2019, this author was shocked to see how swiftly the BJP and its ideology had penetrated even rural Bengal. If the Left Entrance’s failures in governance, rampant corruption on the decrease ranges, and easily fatigue introduced its rule to an finish, nobody may have envisaged that its ideology would meet the identical destiny.
In a method, Banerjee’s arrival did that. In her determined quest to seize the Muslim vote, she pandered to probably the most communal parts locally, offering the BJP a possibility to play the opposite aspect of the sport. Bhattacharya has documented this interaction effectively within the ebook.
Concurrently, she launched a marketing campaign towards the Left Entrance — destroying their workplaces, and unleashing a wave of terror towards its cadres. She did so on a smaller scale towards the Congress. Her aim was to destroy each events and power their employees to affix the Trinamool. As a substitute, hordes of Left Entrance leaders and employees left to swell the ranks of the BJP! These employees had grown up on a food plan of anti-Trinamool politics, and noticed the BJP as the one social gathering able to taking it on. Belatedly, Banerjee has realised that her winner takes all fashion of politics has backfired. Bhattacharya narrates how she is altering her techniques to be extra inclusive forward of the 2021 state polls.
Bhattacharya covers a great deal of floor on this slim quantity. He explains, for example, in nice element the interior workings of the RSS and its 30-odd associates which have made the Trinamool’s process that a lot tougher. He compares the way during which the RSS has penetrated all actions proper right down to the district-level, with the way in which the Left Entrance had positioned its social gathering members in panchayats, native youth golf equipment and committees for public spiritual festivities, thus coming into each facet of the lives of the individuals. If the ebook has a weak spot, it’s that it has been written in haste — it may have performed with higher enhancing — and that it doesn’t contact on coverage points in any respect. Nonetheless, it’s a should learn for anybody who needs to know the sophisticated world of Bengal politics.
Smita Gupta is a Delhi-based political journalist