Ever since the Lok Sabha election, that saw the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) concede political space to the surging Bhatariya Janata Party (BJP) which increased its tally from a mere two seats to 18 in the state, Bengal, particularly rural Bengal is in a grip of spiralling political violence. District after district, especially those close to the India-Bangladesh border, have over the last weekend witnessed a see-saw of pitched battle between supporters of TMC and BJP, leaving at least four dead—three from the BJP and one from Mamata's TMC.
Even as the Union ministry of home affairs, issued an advisory to the state government seeking measures to maintain law and order in the state, a concerned governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has rushed to Delhi for a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brief him on the volatile situation in West Bengal. Home Minister Amit Shah has also sought a report from the state government on the incidents of violent clashes between the TMC and the BJP, of which he is the president.
Commentators say that the violence is part of the political fight between the TMC--which is trying desperately to hold on to its turf--and the saffron party. Having replaced the Left and Congress as the main challengers to Mamata, the BJP is gearing up for the next assembly polls in the state which are scheduled for 2021.
“Both the TMC and the BJP are to be blamed for the spiralling violence that is being witnessed in the state, particularly in the bordering districts,” says political commentator and veteran journalist Sukharanjan Dasgupta.
The situation is like the one in 2009 when the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress came to power decimating the Communist Party of India (Marxist) led left parties in the state, Dasgupta told Outlook.
“Like Mamata Banerjee did in the 2009, the RSS is doing the same thing now,” Dasgupta says referring to the “whispering campaign” taken up by the RSS, not just in rural Bengal but also in the urban areas across the state.
“Mamata Banerjee is being paid back in her same coin. Backed by the RSS and buoyed by the huge victory, the BJP leaders have become confident of overthrowing the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC in the 2021 assembly polls,” says Dasgupta.
The disturbing factor is that the tit-for-tat political violence is being witnessed in the districts bordering Bangladesh, says Dasgupta a Bangladesh watcher.
“The trend is dangerous…the RSS is drumming up trouble in the bordering district targeting the Muslim population in the region…this spells trouble both for West Bengal and Bangladesh. The RSS is bent on ruining Bengal and Mamata too is playing into their trap by countering the BJP-RSS ploy by her blatant appeasement of Muslims, which she wears like a badge on her sleeves,” he adds.
Political observers say that the by fomenting trouble in the state ahead of the Assembly elections, the BJP government at the Centre may impose President’s Rule in the state under Article 356, as the state BJP leaders often keep hinting at the same. Dasgupta, however, says the Centre may instead invoke Article 355 of the Constitution.
Article 355 of the constitution says: “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.”
“Just as Mamata Banerjee had demanded that Article 355 be invoked in the 2009, when she was in the opposition in the state, the BJP may do the same citing a total breakdown law and order in the state,” Dasgupta said.