West Bengal has been on the boil since before the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were declared and tensions between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) have escalated in recent days.
Tripathi met the prime minister and the home minister after the Lok Sabha elections for the first time.
Before the elections, the BJP and the TMC had fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a roadshow by Shah. A college named after Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, a key figure in the Bengal Renaissance, was ransacked and a bust of the 19th century social reformer shattered allegedly by BJP workers during the clashes.
The election campaigning in the state was also stopped a day earlier than it was supposed to in the wake of violence between BJP and TMC workers in the state.
After the BJP managed to win 18 of the 42 seats in West Bengal (TMC got 22), the situation in West Bengal seems to have only worsened.
BJP wins 18 seats
In 2014, when BJP swept the Lok Sabha elections and won 282 seats, Trinamool Congress won 34 of the 42 seats in the state, leaving BJP with only three.
The BJP winning 18 seats in the state this time, therefore, came as a shock for the TMC and Banerjee announced that her party would do a “complete review” of the vote outcome, IANS reported.
She even offered to quit as chief minister of West Bengal but the TMC rejected it. Banerjee later raised questions over voting machines used in the Lok Sabha elections and urged opposition parties to unitedly demand the return of ballot papers for polls.
The TMC supremo alleged that BJP used money, “muscle”, institutions, media and the government to win the elections.
Soon after the election results were announced, suspended TMC MLA Subhranshu Roy and MLA Tusharkanti Bhattacharjee joined the BJP. Modi had claimed in one of his election rallies that 40 TMC MLAs were in touch with him, and the TMC had accused him of “shamelessly” indulging in horse trading.
Later, one Monirul Islam also joined the saffron party.
Jai Shri Ram controversy
The BJP led with the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in the polls with Shah and Modi even daring Banerjee to arrest them for chanting the slogan. BJP Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh told Huffpost India that “Ram has now become a symbol of Hindutva, at least in Bengal”.
After a viral video showed Banerjee confronting a group of people for raising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans as her cavalcade drove past, the BJP decided to send 10 lakh post cards with “Jai Shri Ram” written on them to her.
Some Gujarat ‘seers’, The Economic Times reported, also joined the BJP in sending postcards to Banerjee with ‘Jai Shri Ram’ written on them. “Mamata’s opposition to Jai Shri Ram slogan is hurting the sentiments of people, and devotees and saints are pained over this,” Akhileshwardas, a sadhu, told The Economic Times.
BJP MP Babul Supriyo said he will send “get well soon” cards to the Chief Minister, who is “rattled” by the BJP’s presence in the state.
There were reports that seven people were detained for chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as Banerjee’s cavalcade passed through. Huffpost India could not verify this claim.
Banerjee alleged that the BJP was mixing religion with politics by repeatedly using the ‘Jai Sri Ram’ phrase.
She also said she had no problem regarding any particular slogan being used in political rallies or events of a party. “We do not respect this forcible enforcement of political slogans on others...,” she said.
Banerjee’s refusal to attend Modi’s swearing-in
After initially accepting the invitation to attend Modi’s swearing-in as “constitutional courtesy”, Banerjee did a u-turn.
In a statement, she said that while she was thankful for the ‘Constitutional invitation’ and that she had wanted to attend but on account of BJP claiming that 54 people had been killed in Bengal in political violence, which she said was untrue, she would not be attending.
BJP and TMC have been engaged in a blame game over the violence in Bengal. The BJP, according to PTI, has claimed that five of its workers were killed, whereas the ruling TMC claimed that one was killed.
On Sunday, in an advisory, the Home Ministry had expressed “deep concern” over continuing violence in the state, saying the “unabated violence” even after the Lok Sabha polls appears to be a failure on part of the state government.
“The unabated violence over the past weeks appears to be a failure on the part of the law enforcement machinery of the state to maintain the rule of law and inspire confidence among people,” the advisory said.
The West Bengal government hit back at the Centre saying there were a few “stray post-poll clashes” in West Bengal and the the situation in the state was “under control”.
Banerjee alleged on Monday that the Centre and the cadres of the ruling BJP were trying to incite violence in the state and conspiring to bring down her government.
She also said the BJP was trying to throttle her voice as she was the only one in the country to protest against them.
“They (BJP) are spending crores and crores of money to spread fake news through different social networking websites. The central government and (BJP) party cadres are trying to incite violence in West Bengal,” Banerjee said.
She said the Centre also had an equal responsibility as the state governments in case any violence or riot took place in any state.
Meanwhile, the BJP is observing “Black Day” in West Bengal and a 12-hour shutdown in North 24 Parganas district’s Basirhat subdivision to protest the killing of its workers and the “deteriorating” law and order situation in the state.
The saffron party took out rallies in several parts of the state, with BJP workers sporting black badges. The party demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits involved in the killings of its workers.
The BJP had on Sunday announced that it will observe “Black Day” after it was reportedly stopped by the police from bringing the bodies of its workers to Kolkata.
(With PTI inputs)