The biggest test for India’s largest democracy is going to end in the Lok Sabha elections. The whole country’s focus is on West Bengal elections in the last phase. One big question is: Will the number of BJP seats in West Bengal increase a lot? This question can only be judged from a larger perspective. Let the question be slightly different. Have Bengalis started following or following BJP ideology after so many years?
During the Rath yatra of Lal Krishna Advani, I accompanied him on his West Bengal tour. The Ram Mandir movement was successful in the whole country, but West Bengal did not accept Ram. It was in the 90s, when the road show started from Dharmatala in Kolkata, that the the cry of Jai of Shri Ram was heard. Not from Hindi-speaking residents of West Bengal but Bengalis. This is a new Bengal. I’ve never seen this Bengal before. What will be the result of the vote? How many seats will the BJP get? Only the percentage increase will increase seats? It is a different analysis but this time I am sure that the Bengali mind has undergone a huge change. How did the Leftist Bengali becoming Ram Bhakts, is it a change in the DNA of Bengalis?
Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency falls in South 24 Parganas district. Here the Trinamool Congress candidate is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. There is a small tea shop on side of the road near a bus stand. Fish curry and eggs are being sold at the shop. The bus conductor, local workers, and ordinary people are having lunch, sitting on the bench. The shop is run by a middle-aged woman. I asked hem, what will be the result? She answered after pulling her veil over her head, it would be difficult to say what it would be. Then she asked, do you see how Trinamool Congress snatched power from the clutches of the CPI(M)? You did not understand. Even today you do not understand that Trinamool Congress is going out in West Bengal and BJP is coming to power.
What a shocking statement. I was with cameraman Anil Mitra. He asked whether she would say this on camera? The woman fearlessly said the same. I said, how do you know the situation of the whole state? You are from this village. The woman said, my son carries a contractual business of cars. His car goes from one district to another. The cars are also used by the district authorities. Starting from North Bengal to Southern Bengal, everywhere. My son said, mother vote for the BJP because BJP is winning everywhere.
Will you vote for BJP because your son says so?
See, boys often do not listen to their mothers but a mother always listens to her son. Last time, I voted for Trinamool Congress but this time I will vote for BJP. See, it is an isolated experience. But sometimes we can see whether the rice has been boiled by pressing a single grain of rice from the pressure cooker. Little drops of water make a mighty ocean.
In 2014, there was a storm in the entire country, but in West Bengal the BJP got two seats. One of the seats was Darjeeling. In 2019, the question arises that when there is no Modi wave in Uttar Pradesh or in the Hindi heartland, Modi’s popularity in West Bengal is several times more than in 2014. A comment by a professor at Jadavpur Coffee House describes that this is the paradox of politics.
But, is Bengal accepting Jai Shri Ram as part of the state’s politics? In fact, Bengal has seen left-wing politics for a long time, and it also tried to see Buddhist practices. The CPI(M) had been in power for more than three decades, but the state’s socioeconomic quality has further diminished. Then comes the Trinamool Congress. The party is a change from bad CPI(M). Bengalis have recently been following more religious practices — worshipping gods and goddesses. Bengalis were religious earlier but today there is greater prevalence of superstition. In Dakshineswar and Kalighat, I saw that the number of daily visitors has increased several times. It should be remembered, that that is the whole world’s ‘trend’. Writing in an American daily News that “God is Back” means people are worshipping again and again. Believing in prejudices. The reason being the financial crisis across the globe.
About 30 per cent of West Bengal’s population comprises minorities. Everybody, except the BJP wants to keep them happy. The BJP is now playing the Hindu or majoritarian politics. Not only the Hindi-speaking people, Bengali Hindus have also risen up to polarity in this in politics.
Kshitimohan Sen, while explaining the nature of Hindu culture, wrote that the water of the Ganges was white, the Yamuna’s water black. The water of the Padma is white, Meghna’s water black. So even after the Ganges-Yamuna or the Padma-Meghna River confluence, it is seen that the two streams of white and black moving along side by side for quite a long distance. Although the river waters flow in the blue waters of the ocean, still one can find the character of the river water predominant for a large distance in the ocean.
Seeing the colour of the water, experienced sailors can gauge the expanse of the river. There are also provincial and various human-level specialties in Hinduism in India. According to all these signs, Hinduism has different types. While speaking about Brahma, Manu said, in a country where traditional customs are followed that becomes the identity of that country. Maikhukhkar Nilkanth said, “Dakshinatya Biprara marries the daughter of their maternal uncle, artists of Central India eat beef, in East fish and adultery is very common, women from the North are habitual drinkers. Acharaya Yagyabalka famously said, “Jaysin deshe jo acharo, byaboharo kuleshithi. Tahaibo protipalle yada bismula gata”.
The worship of Vishnu in Tirupati, Vaishnavism of Bengali Hindus of West Bengal, Gauriya Vaishnava. The Puja Of Lord Ram is totally different here in West Bengal, here Lord Raghubir or Ramnavami puja is different. Now, due to globalization, India has increased cultural ties between northern and eastern India. So, in many cases, the changes in the personal characteristics of Bengalis are happening. Bengalis are now ideologically accepting the BJP. Here is a new Bengal that I am seeing, where the slogan of Ma-Mati-Manush has changed to “Ma-Mati-Modi”.
The election results are going to be declared on May 23. I do not know what will happen in the whole country, what will happen in West Bengal. But when the whole country is saying that the BJP storm of 2014 is not visible in 2019, it is not because the BJP in most of the Hindi speaking state is almost on the backfoot. In Uttar Pradesh, BJP had got 71 seats out of 80 seats, and this time there is a Mayawati and Akhilesh Mahagathbondhan. BJP hopes it will come out on top even if it suffers a deficit in Hindi heartland states as it believes it will gain in West Bengal, Odisha, in the North-East and southern India. About 125 seats will be the BJP’s newest seats, which is given by Amit Shah himself.
There is no doubt that BJP is the main opposition party in West Bengal. If the Modi storm is moderate in the rest of the country, in West Bengal the opposite is true. Leftists are doing a tactical vote. In a chat room at Santoshpur they explained this, saying that voting for the CPI(M) would be spoiling the vote because it could not defeat the Trinamool Congress at the moment. They believe that for the Left to rise once again in the state, the BJP must take the place of the Trinamool Congress in the state. When that happened, the ideological battle between the Left and the BJP would begin and mark the return of the Left in the state.
What a strange matter, for this reason, leftists are becoming Ram Panthis. Whether this love for the BJP among the Bengalis is short-term or long-term is very difficult to say. The question will also be reflected in how the BJP fares in this election in the state. Most of the people of Bengal think that Modi is more likely to become Prime Minister once more.
As for Modi, the skin has tanned from being in the sun to address public meetings. He has lost weight. The colour of his kurta has changed frequently — sometimes it has been white, sometimes light yellow or saffron. What colour he will wear on May 23 we will all have to see.
(Jayanta Ghosal is a senior journalist)