POLITICS

Sudip Bandyopadhyay's Arrest Has Sparked An All-Out War Between Trinamool And BJP

The gloves have come off.

04/01/2017 8:36 AM IST | Updated 04/01/2017 9:52 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Battle lines were drawn in Bengal on 3 January, with the arrest of Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

While Mamata Banerjee chose to keep Bandyopadhyay the party's Lok Sabha leader (she refused to choose another leader to replace the MP to lead the party in the lower house of the Parliament) and top leaders of her party huddled together to work out strategies, Trinamool Congress supporters were busy attacking the BJP's headquarters in Kolkata's CR Avenue.

It would however, be more appropriate to say the Trinamool Congress and BJP workers got into a clash, as it is difficult to ascertain who started it all, with both parties claiming they had been attacked first and had merely retaliated.

The eyes are rolling, the fangs are out, so are the lathis and pieces of bricks to hurl at each other.

But one thing is clear from this: as a major blow was dealt by the CBI on the Trinamool Congress with Bandyopadhyay's arrest, BJP and Trinamool Congress have gone into a bitter confrontational mode from here on. The eyes are rolling, the fangs are out, so are the lathis and pieces of bricks to hurl at each other. By evening, there were reports of more BJP-Trinamool Congress clashes and more BJP party offices attacked in different parts of the state.

But in all this, what is the role of the CPM and its allies (the Left Front)--that has ruled Bengal for over three decades? Former chief minister, CPM's Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, criticised the alleged corruption of the ruling party in Bengal, and the party has planned some meetings and processions in the city, but the earlier gusto of the CPM was somehow missing compared to the BJP's verbal attacks on the ruling Trinamool Congress.

One can only recall an episode here a few years ago that will help explain how the voice of the Left parties in West Bengal has turned feeble over the years.

In April 2013, the Trinamool Congress supporters had allegedly attacked and ransacked approximately a thousand party offices of the CPM throughout West Bengal when some CPM leaders were alleged to have "heckled" and "obstructed" the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee in New Delhi.

At that time, the CPM was the object of the Trinamool Congress' wrath because the CPM was considered to be a threat to the Trinamool Congress. Now, it is the BJP. The CPM's voice got lonelier and more subdued.

And it has been so all the more because their declared ally in the Assembly elections of May 2016 in West Bengal--the Congress--has already openly sympathised with Mamata Banerjee immediately after Sudip Bandyopadhyay was arrested.

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with other opposition leaders during a joint press conference on demonetisation on 27 December, 2016 in New Delhi, India.

This was predictable of course, given that the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee had held a joint press conference recently in New Delhi on the demonetisation issue, and the positive vibes between the two leaders were for everyone to see. This has been a noticeable change after the way the CPM-Congress combine were aspiring to oust Mamata Banerjee from power in the Assembly elections. Of late, the Congress' voice in Bengal has become almost impossible to hear amidst the political hullabaloo of the BJP and the Trinamool.

As Mamata Banerjee's camaraderie with the Congress turns warm and positive nationally, she is now focused firmly on BJP as her principal enemy--not only nationally, but in Bengal too. She openly led her tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP's national president Amit Shah on Tuesday. The battle lines have clearly been drawn. BJP state president Dilip Ghosh has said that if Trinamool Congress supporters come attacking their party office, surely one should not expect their party members to welcome the goons with open arms. "They reacted as they were treated," Ghosh said.

If the BJP and Trinamool Congress were fighting a bitter war--both nationally and at the state level in Bengal--it just got uglier with Sudip Bandyopadhyay's arrest.

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