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TMC starts regaining lost ground in Bengal using dual strategy against CAA

Riding on the wave against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has started gaining lost ground amid the voters in West Bengal it seceded in this year’s Lok Sabha polls, while the BJP has launched a counter-offensive against the TMC in support of the amendment.

TMC supremo and the state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee has been on the forefront in the political movement against CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), opposing them tooth and nail. She has also decided to intensify protests against the Act.

Political observer Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chowdhuri noted that this way, the TMC has been able to regain some of its lost ground by connecting with the masses and taking up this raging issue. If the Centre feels pressurised and opts to change its course of action, it will be a resounding victory for Banerjee.

“For the time being, TMC is at an advantage. When violence spread earlier, it looked as if Banerjee was losing control but soon, she was able to contain the situation. Now, the TMC stands to gain the most,” Roy Chowdhuri said.

According to Roy Chowdhuri, while in southern West Bengal, the issue of non-inclusion of Muslims and other neighbouring countries is the primary contention, in the northern parts of the state, opposition to CAA is over rehabilitation.

The Gorkhas and the Nepali community in the Hills are suspicious that Hindu migrants will be settled in the Hills and as a result, they will lose both, land and jobs. A similar suspicion is being voiced in Assam and other north-eastern states which are opposing CAA.

“People in northern West Bengal are now putting up posters demanding introduction of Inner Line Permit to safeguard their land and jobs”, he said.

The TMC, which otherwise had a poor show in the Hills and northern West Bengal, can also benefit in this region with the common opposition to CAA.

It is not just in West Bengal, but in other states too that the TMC has started to make its presence felt over the CAA issue. In a show of sympathy, a four-member delegation from the party is visiting the families of those killed in alleged police firing during the protests.

While in the Lok Sabha polls, the TMC had maintained it would not allow NRC or CAA in West Bengal and opposed the BJP on political and economic issues primarily, the saffron party, promising NRC and CAA besides alleging deteriorating law and order situation in the state, posted its best tally ever in West Bengal, bagging 18 seats with a 40.25 per cent vote share. On the other hand, the TMC, despite increasing its vote share by 3.48 per cent at 43.28 per cent in the state, lost 12 seats to the BJP and ended with 22.

The BJP particularly gained vote share and seats in pockets that had a Bengali Hindu majority or were classified as Hindu migrant belts and areas dotted by the backward classes and scheduled castes and tribes.

The TMC gained vote share across the state, but mostly in Muslim majority areas like Jangipur, Murshidabad Basirhat and others.

The BJP leadership credited polarisation of votes and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership for its success in the state, but political observers noted that the voting pattern was based on anti-incumbency factors and the anger against the state administration.

However, in the Assembly by-elections, TMC not only swept the polls but also defeated the BJP in its own stronghold in Kharagpur Sadar, besides winning the other two assembly seats of Kaliaganj and Karimpur.

While the TMC credited its leadership and organisation capabilities, and the support of the people for the resounding victory, BJP leaders clandestinely blamed CAA (then Citizenship Amendment Bill) and NRC for the failure.

However, a systemic wave of violence allegedly carried out by the minorities, broke out across West Bengal, targeting the Railways, Highways and government and private property, leaving the chief minister worried.

The BJP took the opportunity to blame the state administration for failing to contain the incidents and singled out Bangladeshi immigrants for the violence.

At a time when Banerjee repeatedly asked the people to maintain peace, the BJP had started to gain momentum as a section of indigenous Bengali Hindus sided with its vision of CAA.

In fact, the state’s Urban Development and Municipal Affairs minister Firhad Hakim warned, “The fight over CAA and NRC is not between the Hindus and Muslims. If the majority community suffers as a result of the actions of a particular community, it will only benefit the BJP. If 70 per cent of the Hindus vote for BJP (in the forthcoming Assembly elections), they will come to power here.”

Dilip Ghosh, West Bengal president of BJP, however, is not leaving any stone unturned to face the rage against CAA and has resorted to series of “thanksgiving” marches for the Centre for introducing CAA.

BJP sources said the party has taken up a counteroffensive strategy by highlighting the benefits of CAA on the one hand and, on the other, by accusing the minority community, led by TMC, of spreading lies, violence and terror against the common people as well as his party.

Political analysts noted that the manner in which the Centre tackles the protests and the eventuality that it goes ahead with CAA in its original form will determine how the political landscape in West Bengal as India unfolds.

Source: Business Standard