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TMC peddles ''soft Hindutva'' to stop march of BJP in Bengal By Pradipta Tapadar

TMC peddles ''soft Hindutva'' to stop march of BJP in Bengal By Pradipta Tapadar
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+0530
Kolkata, Sep 21 (PTI) Doles for Hindu priests seem to

be a part of TMC''s well-crafted strategy to blunt the

allegations of minority appeasement, and take the wind out of

BJP''s sails, as it sets the stage for a neck-and-neck

slugfest, ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal.

Political observers have said that the TMC, now

desperate to shed the ''anti-Hindu'' tag and embrace ''soft

Hindutva'', is carefully planning its moves, with help from

poll strategist Prashant Kishor and team, as is evident from

its decisions to organise Brahmin Sammelan, provide sops to

Sanatan Brahmins, and financial aid to Durga puja committees.

Although senior leaders of the Mamata Banerjee-led

party claimed that the move to provide aid and free housing to

8,000 Sanatan Brahmin priests was a reflection of its

"inclusive" policies, the opposition BJP said that it was

aimed at denting the saffron camp''s Hindu vote base.

"We don''t believe in communal politics, unlike the

BJP. We aim to help people and communities in distress. The

party has no religious agenda," Senior TMC leader and MP

Saugato Roy told PTI.

The ruling party''s top brass, however, failed to

explain why it took eight years to announce financial aid for

Hindu priests, given the fact that Imams and Muezzins have

been enjoying such benefits over the last eight years.

After the Calcutta High Court had in 2012 rejected the

West Bengal government''s decision to provide financial

assistance to Imams and Muezzins as "unconstitutional and

against the public interest", the ruling dispensation routed

it through the state''s Wakf Board.

A section of TMC members, however, admitted that sops

were being extended to the Sanatan Brahmins, as the party

looks to gain ground in the Hindu-majority belts, where the

BJP have made deep inroads over the past two to three years.

"The BJP has been trying to project us as an anti-

Hindu force. Their members have been trying to pitch

themselves as champions of Hindutva. So we wanted to reach out

to the masses, especially the Hindu community, with the

message that we believe in inclusive growth," a senior TMC

leader said on the condition of anonymity.

"The allegations that we are anti-Hindu have done a

lot of damage to the party during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. We

need to change that, but at the same time, we can''t alienate

the minorities. We need to fix those gaps and regain the lost

ground before the 2021 assembly polls," he said.

According to TMC sources, the party''s ouster in

several pockets of North Bengal and South Bengal in the 2019

Lok Sabha polls had been an "eye-opener".

The saffron camp reached its all-time high in Bengal

politics last year when it stunned political pundits by

bagging 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats, four less than the

ruling TMC, with a staggering vote share of 41 per cent.

The TMC tally not just came down from 34 seats in 2014

to 22, but the party also fared badly in Junglemahal areas,

where the tribal population was found to have shifted its

allegiance to the BJP.

Brahmin priests still command respect among the Hindus

and could help swing votes, sources in the Mamata Banerjee-led

party said.

"I-PAC (Kishor''s organisation) has assessed the

situation in Bengal and provided inputs for restructuring our

strategy. This attempt to reach out to the Brahmins is a part

of the revised plan," one of them said.

Bengal has witnessed sharp communal polarisation over

the last few years. According to Union Home Ministry data,

released in 2018, the state recorded 27 incidents of communal

violence in 2015. The number doubled by 2017 as 58 such

incidents were recorded.

Political experts have claimed that the outcome of

2019 parliamentary polls and sustained attack by the BJP on

the TMC''s alleged anti Hindu stance has forced the state''s

ruling party to rethink its strategy.

Noted political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty said the

"soft-Hindutva agenda pursued by the TMC" is aimed at winning

back the Hindu votes it lost to the BJP.

"Only time will tell if this soft-Hindutva approach

can benefit the party. The TMC wants to retain its minority

vote bank, while trying to split Hindu votes. If it is

successful in splitting Hindu votes with the BJP, the party

would be at an advantageous position," Chakraborty said.

The West Bengal unit of the RSS had last week said

that the government made a "mockery of the Brahmins" by

announcing the doles, and insisted that the existence of

Bengali-speaking Hindus is under threat in present-day Bengal.

BJP national general secretary and the party''s Bengal

minder, Kailash Vijayvargiya said "poll gimmicks" of the TMC

government wouldn''t yield any result.

"What took the TMC government so long to think about

Hindu priests? It is only because assembly polls are

approaching, such sops are being distributed. The TMC

government, otherwise, works for only 30 per cent of the

population in the state," Vijayvargiya said.

Echoing Vijayvargiya, West Bengal Congress president

Adhir Chowdhury said the announcement reflects the

"desperation" of the TMC government, which seems to be ready

to go to any extent to win votes.

"The TMC has realized that only appeasement of

minorities won''t work, so they have decided to give doles to

Hindu priests. This is nothing but an effort to endorse soft-

Hindutva. The TMC is neither interested in the development of

Hindus or Muslims," Chowdhury said.

CPI (M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty,

however, said that such "dole politics" would further deepen

the communal divide in the state and help the BJP gain ground.

Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Bengal

in April-May next year. PTI PNT

RMS RMS


Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI

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