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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 5 DECEMBER, 2014

Amit Shah And Mamata Banerjee Declare War For 2016 Electoral Spoils

Too early for the crown? The battle has just begun


NEW DELHI: Money and Power makes Indian elections tick, and both are being infused into West Bengal polity in a heavy dose by Bharatiya Janata party President Amit Shah who has acquired a formidable reputation of overturning the most stable in politics.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is fighting with her back against the wall as the BJP grows on a daily basis in a state where it had not been able to win a municipality in the 35 years of Left rule. The Sharada scam and the terror accusations over the Burdwan blast have hemmed in “Didi” who finds herself on the defensive while fighting back. She is also friendless in the state, as her blistering attack on the Left after coming to power has turned the communists against her to the point of no rapprochement.

"I am Amit Shah.. I have come to uproot the Trinamool Congress from West Bengal", declared the BJP president at a rally in Kolkata on November 29. Banerjee followed this with her own rally a day later but observers point out that she was unable to reach the expected numbers. Interestingly, the Left that also decided to hold a public meeting to counter the communal forces received unprecedented support and according to journalists who had attended all three outranked the other two insofar as numbers were concerned. However, it went largely unreported.

This is also because the Left is still licking the wounds inflicted by the TMC supported violence against its cadres, and the field seems to be open for a direct confrontation between the TMC and the BJP. TMC cadres have been leaving to join the BJP and independent analysts point out, that there are many within the TMC itself who are in direct touch with the BJP. “Whenever disgruntled or angry with the chief minister these leaders raise a banner of revolt every now and again by threatening to join the BJP” the sources said, and thereby keep Banerjee on her toes and the TMC shaky from within.

Banerjee in fact is being credited, by even members of the BJP, for preparing the ground for their party’s rise. One, the chief ministers concerted “appeasement” of the minorities in the state has aided the growth of the BJP. CPI(M)’s Mohammad Saleem told The Citizen that when the TMC came to power, the state Muslim League dissolved itself and merged in the new party. These fundamentalist leaders had been calling the shots, and according to Saleem’s assessment and he is an astute politician, the rise of the BJP can be linked directly to the constituencies where the erstwhile IUML has been active.

And two, Banerjee started by attacking and bloodying the Left as soon as she came to power. To a point where many of their members went indoors, or joined other political parties. In short the Left was made ineffective as a political force, and has not been able to recover from its own internal issues as well as the consequences of the attack by TMC.

The BJP under Shah has grown in this vacuum and is leaving no stone unturned in a bid to wrest the state from the TMC in the 2016 elections--- a crucial year as the Uttar Pradesh polls will also be held then. Sources said that Shah has set a one crore figure for a membership drive, and money is certainly not in short supply to wean over cadres from all the other political parties including the TMC, CPI(M) and the Congress that is also being rapidly decimated on the ground.

The media is already turning saffron in the state, and has been covering the BJP and Shah extensively, Reports that the party will be opening a television channel in West Bengal are also making the rounds.

Significantly, the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval known for his ‘covert’ operations as a sleuth earlier is taking keen interest in West Bengal. As is the RSS that has increased the number of shakhas in the state from a near negligible to over 1200 and will be working closely with the BJP to win this state less than two years from now.

Banerjee, not an astute but a militant politician is fighting back. It is difficult though as the Left has spurned her tentative advances and while the Congress did welcome her, it was not particularly enthusiastic in its reception of her when she rushed to attend the Jawaharlal Nehru birth anniversary celebrations in Delhi. She has however, retaliated to the corruption charges against her, by insisting that Amit Shah is linked to the Sahara scams and has been campaigning along those lines. Her MPs were in the forefront in demanding the resignation of the hate speech Minister Jyoti during the protests in Parliament.

Banerjee has made it clear she is not one who is going to be cowed down, and that violence can beget violence with clashes already being reported between TMC and BJP supporters. The knives are out, and the battle for 2016 has clearly begun in West Bengal.

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