Opinion: The Rise Of Right in Bengali heartland

A major political tectonic shift among the Bengali people is being observed. The once left loyalist Bhodrolok (gentlemen) are now slowly shifting towards the right wing. The historic victory of BJP in Tripura was a testimony to the fact that the Hindu bengali people are now leaving their old leftist mindset and embracing the right.

Before the major mandate in the Tripura, other political parties in West Bengal and especially the Trinamool Congress have been denying any support of the BJP among the Bengali masses. But ever since the surprising results came out from Tripura, a political tension can be felt in the air of West Bengal. Perhaps Trinamool Congress has now realized that things are going to get serious from here on.

When we look back some ten years ago we realize that BJP has grown drastically in the Hindu bengali heartland (Tripura and West Bengal). Yes being a local I can say that BJP always attracted a certain amount of respect from Nationalist Bengalis in kolkata. The NDA-I government was very popular in kolkata. BJP leaders like late Tapan Sikdar or Tathagata Roy who is now the Governor of Tripura, were respected even by the people of TMC and CPM for being true gentlemen. But that was limited to respect only.

Late West Bengal BJP leader Tapan Sikdar

Before 2014 even the biggest of BJP leaders never even dreamed that one day the party would rise to a position of being considered an alternative in the state. Fast-forward ten years, the BJP has captured Tripura and no matter the numbers in assembly it is unanimously considered the main rival of TMC in Bengal.

So what has changed? What changed in these few years? Is Amit Shah to be credited? Or TMC to be blamed? What is there behind the rise of Right in the Bengali heartland?

To find the answer of our questions we need to go back straight to the Victorian India. Even though the Britishers classified Bengalis as a non-martial race, the Bengalis were and still are a very revolutionary race. They were one of the first and arguably the very first people to pick up guns against the Mighty British Empire. In pre-indepence days the Right wing dominated among Bengalis.

But after independence a vacuum was created in the politics of Bengali heartland with no alternative to the Congress. The RSS and Jana Sangh who were having their own problems after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and death of Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, completely failed to become an alternative in Bengali heartland.
And this given the Leftists with an opportunity to create a space for themselves. They reached out to the poor, the downtrodden, basically to those about whom the Congress didn’t care.

They promised a revolution. In early days the communist leaders of Bengal used to live a very simple lifestyle something contrary to the Congress leaders of those times. All these revolutionary ideas appealed to the revolutionary minded Bengali people.

Jyoti Basu with Fidel Castro

After coming to power the left-wing ruled for 34 straight years. The longest ever rule by any party in India. In this period they captured educational institutions, art institutions and did everything to make sure that coming generations of Bengal believe in their ideology only. But from beginning of the new century the young generation and specially those out of Kolkata’s intellectual circles started to doubt the vision of Jyoti Basu. They started to realize that the Left rule turned once Sonar Bangla (golden Bengal) into one of the most backward states of the country.

Despite all the non stop leftist propaganda from all corners of the society, they couldn’t stop the youth of Bengal from thinking otherwise. And in this period when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was mesmerising the nation with his speeches, a growing non-left feeling in West Bengal given rise to a party, seeds of which were once sowed in its very soil, The Bharatiya Janata Party.

A party which was completely opposite to what the Left believed in. A party that had its own beliefs, it’s own ideas and it’s very own definition of a revolution. A revolution which did not ask the people of Bengal to feel ashamed of their forefathers, their culture, their temples and their gods but a revolution which asked them to be proud of what they are, which asked them to join hands with their fellow Hindu or Indian brothers and reclaim past glory. Many don’t know that this was BJP’s first rise in Bengal.

But the central leadership of BJP was not as passionate about Bengal back then as it is today. And this less passionate approach from the center given a new party the opportunity to capitalize on the non-left feelings, that was newly found Trinamool Congress.

Mamata Banerjee swearing in as the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011

TMC slowly grown in stature and finally succeeded in replacing the left rule in Bengal, something many thought would never happen. But within months into power it was clear that TMC’s opposition was only against CPM as a party and not against communism the ideology. TMC had no formidable ideology to counter the Marxist narrative. Hence even though CPM lost, the leftist style of rule remained. The political culture of violence that was brought by CPM in Bengal, continued and only flourished under TMC regime.

The communists had failed to deliver what they promised and TMC failed to bring the change they promised. And on top of all, the leaps and bound growth of Muslim population has created a sense of insecurity among Hindu Bengalis who have already witnessed one very bloody partition.

The people of Bengali heartland are getting tired of the old leftist rule. They don’t just want an alternative party but an alternative idea, an alternative way of governance, and an alternative narrative. Something only the BJP can provide. And unlike previous leaders, the duo of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi is very passionate about Bengal. The BJP top guns have made it clear that after Tripura the next target is Bengal.