West Bengal polls 2016: Are the BJP and TMC cozying up?

After the meeting in March 2015 between Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the equation seems to have changed.
West Bengal polls 2016: Are the BJP and TMC cozying up?
West Bengal polls 2016: Are the BJP and TMC cozying up?
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With two consecutive electoral defeats in 2015, the BJP, which aims to achieve its mission of #CongressMuktBharat and ramp up its Rajya Sabha numbers, is in a dire position. 2016 will see four major states going to the polls – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, of which Assam is the only state in which BJP has a realistic chance of securing power.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP secured a 17% vote share in West Bengal, which was its highest ever. After the results, BJP President Amit Shah and the state BJP unit had launched blistering attacks on Mamata and the Trinamool Congress. Shah had even coined the term “Bhaag Mamata Bhaag” and claimed that BJP would wipe out TMC in the 2016 polls.

However, after a meeting in March 2015 between Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the equation seems to have changed. The meeting appeared to be a quid pro quo between them. TMC provided support in the Rajya Sabha for some important bills and in return, the Saradha scam investigation by the CBI seemed to have slowed down. In the Bengal civic polls, BJP didn’t put much effort, no central minister campaigned and no paramilitary forces were deployed despite repeated requests by the state BJP unit. As reports in the Bengali media show, the bonhomie between BJP and TMC led to huge distrust among BJP’s early supporters and workers, who had supported the party with all their enthusiasm.

Few recent developments indicate that as the polls come close, the BJP is cozying up to the TMC, either to probably form a pre-poll alliance or join the government post the results. Here are four instances which prove so:

No polarization after Malda: Given BJP’s past electoral strategies, one would have assumed that it would utilize the Malda incident to try and polarize Hindu voters, which may have helped them in the upcoming polls. But BJP’s response to Malda didn’t match the intensity and vigor of its earlier polarization attempts such as those in UP and Bihar. A fact-finding team was sent by Amit Shah, which was not allowed to enter Malda, but surprisingly, no verbal attacks or public condemnation were done by the national BJP unit and ministers. Though the state BJP unit leaders criticized it vociferously, but it strongly appeared that their hands were tied by the central unit. Given the mass appeasement of Muslims by TMC, there cannot be a better ground for the BJP to polarize Hindu voters, but surprisingly, BJP has chosen to ignore the opportunity.

Bengal Business Summit: Last week, the WB government organized the Bengal Business Summit to attract investors. At the summit, BJP union ministers showered huge praise on Mamata, which was quite unusual. “If you are not in a position to attract investment, what happens is what happened in West Bengal for three and a half decade, where there were no jobs and there were only shadow political slogans to lean on. It is in this context that West Bengal lost its glory, which could be restored, and I assure you that the Centre will give all its support to the state’s endeavour to attract investments,” said Arun Jaitley, according to a report by the Indian Express

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu praised the state’s performance, adding that it “had a huge capacity to grow”. Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal said he had seen the “state emerge as an investment hub in recent years” and that it had “come back in the map of investment”.

Terror links in Bengal: Over the past few years, Bengal has increasingly emerged as an important spot for terror. Right from numerous cases of accidental bomb blasts in TMC offices to the recent ISI spy ring in which an active TMC member was involved, the cross-border terror links indeed pose a serious concern for national security. However, till now, there hasn’t been any emergency ultimatum or reprimand by the central government to take immediate action.

Fears of another debacle in Bengal polls: if BJP would have carried on the momentum it had gained during the Lok Sabha polls, there was still some chance of it being the opposition party in Bengal. But the recent gains made by the Left, such as the recently conducted state-wide plenary which was hugely successful, have ensured that it would not be able to dethrone the Left at least this time. Therefore, it doesn’t want to repeat a situation like Delhi and Bihar, wherein, which it campaigns aggressively and deploys heavy electoral machinery, but ends up losing badly and embarrassing itself.

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