West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee received a heavy blow to her puffed up ego when the Kolkata High Court set aside her administration’s bid to ban a rally to be addressed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Sarsanghchalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat.
The RSS sees the judicial permission and the peaceful holding of the rally on Makara Sankranti Day at the prestigious Brigade Parade Ground, which was well attended, as a vindication of its stand that Mamata Government was unjust in denying it permission. The Court’s order and the snub for the police in denying permission in the first instance have further tarnished the image of the TMC administration which of late has become notorious in denying democratic rights to its opponents and encouraging party goons to have a free run on the opposition.
This is the second judicial setback for the TMC in a week. Earlier the TMC led Asansol Municipal Corporation had denied permission to Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo to hold a Sansad Mela. The High Court on January 12 overturned the TMC decision and granted the BJP central Minister to hold the Mela.
The growing influence of the BJP in Bengal is seen as the main reason for Mamata’s ire. In the two by-elections in November the BJP replaced the CPI(M) as the main TMC opponent and stood second. The RSS and the BJP have been claiming that its ranks are swelling with new recruits as the people according to them are fed up with Mamata’s appeasement politics. They cite the state government’s inaction in the recent riots in Dhulagarh in Howrah, not far from near Kolkata, where Hindus were driven out of and their homes and shops gutted and plundered. This went on for 3-4 days, without police helping the victims or stopping the rioters. Also, Mamata acted partisan when a high level delegation led by Babul Supriyo tried to visit the riot hit areas. The BJP delegation sent by the BJP high command was stopped and returned by the state government on the pretext of law and order. Nor was media allowed for nearly a week after the riots.
The denial of permission to the RSS chief has came as a surprise to many in the Sangh circle. For Sangh is a cultural organization and the event the Chief addressed was billed as a cultural event on the occasion of Makara Sankranti, Pongal and Lohri all combined which is one of the six major festivals the RSS has been celebrating since its inception in 1925. This is a festival of the Sun turning its Uttarayan shift which marks the beginning of spring and the Sangh has been celebrating it as a signal of brotherhood, festivity and distributing sweets. Such festivals are organized throughout the country and wherever its members are active. The Sarsanghchalak happens to be the chief guest this time in Kolkata. The surprise element is more pronounced here because the RSS was known to have a soft corner for Mamata because of her valiant fight against the CPI(M) goondaism. The Sangh is fighting a war with its back to the wall in Kerala with the CPI(M) where hundreds of its workers have been martyred. It is also known that the Sangh played a major role when the TMC was in alliance with the BJP in Bengal for almost 10 years to popularize Mamata brand throughout the country.
Shri Mohan Bhagwat was not expected to speak politics at the Kolkata rally. The Court gave permission for the rally on the condition that the names of all the participants would be given to the police and only invited members will be allowed at the Parade Ground. In spite of the last minute restrictions the RSS chief’s rally turned out to be a roaring success. Mamata Banerjee could have avoided inviting the ill will of the large educated citizenry in the state by allowing the Sangh Chief’s programme. But ever since the demonetization and the arrest of TMC leaders in the Sarada and Rose Valley scams she has gone berserk and has been targeting the central government, the prime minister personally and dozens of BJP workers have faced the brunt of Trinamool hooliganism.
Unusual in political rivalry, the TMC hoodlums were unleashed freely on the BJP workers and they have attacked many BJP offices throughout the state. BJP has been accusing the Mamata government of failing in its duty to protect the lives and property of the average Bengali. Her blind fascination for communal politics has surprised many. In her anxiety to keep the Islamists in good humour she even cancelled a public meeting at Kolkata club last week, slated to be addressed by the Baluch leader Tarik Fateh. This was an event to highlight Pak atrocities on innocent Baluchi population. In the wake of the demonetization Mamata went to the extent of demanding President’s rule in the country and replacing Shri Narendra Modi as prime minister. All these actions indicate a high level of frustration and political brinkmanship. Mamata has not just replaced the CPI(M) in the state, she has rather inherited and nurtured the CPM legacy of political assassinations, violence and mayhem. Intolerance of its intellectual and political opponents and an uncanny exuberance to cover up financial scandals have become the hallmark of Mamata regime. The latest showdown with the RSS could have been avoided in her own political interest.
(Writer is Member, BJP Central Committee on Training, and Committee on Publications. He can be contacted at Balashankar12@gmail.com Twitter @drbalashankar. Ph.09811971071)