Trinamool Congress’ impressive win in the assembly election has intensified speculation about party chief Mamata Banerjee’s national ambitions, even as the BJP holds a nationwide protest over post-poll violence in West Bengal
Political violence erupted across the state soon after the results for the assembly elections were out on Sunday (May 2) night, killing more than 12 people, including one in Kolkata, and rendering several families homeless.
The TMC won 213 seats while the BJP managed only 77 out of 292 constituencies where elections were held. Polling was countermanded in two constituencies following the death of candidates infected by the coronavirus.
The BJP started a nationwide protest on Wednesday (May 5), coinciding with the swearing-in ceremony of Banerjee as chief minister for a third term in a row.
“Mamata ji does not represent Bengali culture. She is the embodiment of intolerance,” BJP national president JP Nadda said.
“The idea of holding protests across the country is to discredit Brand Mamata, projecting her as a tyrant to nip her national ambition in the bud,” said a BJP leader wishing anonymity. “We will make the Bengal violence a national issue.”
Putting the plan in action, BJP spokesperson and senior advocate Gaurav Bhatia on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into the violence, which claimed the lives of several BJP workers.
The same day Nadda rushed to the state to meet the victims of the violence.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) took serious note of the situation in Bengal.
Taking suo motu cognisance of attacks on political rivals, both the NHRC and the NCW announced investigations into the violence.
An NCW team headed by its chairperson Rekha Sharma will visit the state to investigate attacks on women.
The NHRC directed its DIG (Investigation) to form a team to open a probe and to submit a report at the earliest, preferably within two weeks.
“Political workers allegedly clashed with one another, party offices were torched down and some homes were ransacked and valuables also looted. District administration and local law-and-order enforcement agencies appear not to have acted to stop such violation of human rights of the affected persons,” the NHRC said.
Earlier, the home ministry sought a report from the state government and the PM called Governor Jagdeep Dhankar to express his anguish over the post-poll violence.
“The PM called and expressed his serious anguish and concern at alarmingly worrisome law and order situation,” the governor tweeted.
Assam BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed in a tweet that “300-400 BJP karyakartas and family members” had crossed over from Bengal to Dhubri in Assam fearing “persecution and violence”.
In several places TMC supporters were attacked, though in most of the incidents the ruling party workers were accused of unleashing violence.
Amidst growing criticism, the chief minister held a law and order review meeting with top officials, including Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, Home Secretary HK Dwidevi and Director General of Police P Nirajnayan and appealed for calm.
She, however, blamed the BJP of trying to create trouble in the areas where they won. Ground reports clearly showed that in many places, including in several parts of Kolkata, BJP supporters were at the receiving end of the violence.
Many TMC leaders admit that these reports, with accompanying visuals, do not enhance the image of Banerjee, whom the party is now trying to project as a national leader.
The latest animation video of the Trinamool’s ‘Fighter Didi’ series has intensified speculation about Banerjee’s national ambition.
The video – which depicts Banerjee as the ‘saviour’ of the nation – takes a dig at the prime minister’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The video is part of the TMC’s grand plan of projecting Banerjee as an alternative to Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. On her part, Banerjee skirted the issue at a press conference saying at present her focus is on tackling the pandemic. She demanded free vaccines for all citizens of the country.
“If the Centre does not provide free vaccine to all, I will start non-violence agitation sitting on a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue in Kolkata,” she said.