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In Mamata’s Bengal, BJP May Change the Meaning of ‘Poriborton’
In Mamata’s Bengal, BJP May Change the Meaning of ‘Poriborton’

New Delhi, May 21 (TIWN): In 2011, when Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) knocked over a 34-year-old Left Front government in West Bengal, the key slogan was ‘poriborton’ – positive change.

Eight years later, in the Lok Sabha elections, the people of Bengal (crucially, not just Bengalis) are making choices that will mould, in all probability, a new version of Bengal. Mamata may have coined ‘poriborton’ for 2011, but the term will probably apply far better to 2019, when the elections are done and dusted.

The bald fact is this: the BJP is going to emerge as the second-largest party in the state in terms of vote share, which suggests considerable support for its ideology. What does that mean in terms of ‘poriborton’?

Also Read: Exit Polls: Which Are The Seats Where BJP Might Gain In Bengal?

Are Bengalis Fighting Non-Bengalis This Time in Bengal?

Let us briefly debunk what has been touted as ‘cause and effect’ in the wake of the recent destruction of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue during a BJP procession led by Amit Shah. It has been suggested that this is an indication that Bengalis will fight non-Bengalis in the state, because a Bengali icon’s statue has been desecrated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are two reasons for that: one, non-Bengali support was vital to Mamata Banerjee’s ouster of the Left in 2011, and she along with her party have turned that into a protection racket, where the businesses run by Marwaris, Gujaratis, Sikhs and Biharis, as well as jobs doled out to labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa (the labourers are erstwhile members of CITU, mostly) are ‘traded’ for unquestioning support to TMC.

Second, all said and done, non-Bengalis of whatever ilk, living in Kolkata and Bengal, have integrated very successfully into the evolving cultural fabric of the state, and the sort of conflict being projected based on this one event, would fly in the face of that.

Also Read: There is an upsurge for BJP: Bengal party chief

The Comeback of Religion-Based Politics In Bengal

Here is a quick enumeration of the ways in which the state is being redefined.

First, religion is making a huge comeback in the Bengali political psyche. When an extremist faction developed in India’s anti-colonial struggle in the first decade of the twentieth century, it grew around explicit devotion for Hindu deities, especially Kali. Young men joined terror societies in droves and became the subject of myths and folk songs.

This Hindu nationalist stream persisted, gathering massive strength in the sordid atmosphere of Partition riots in 1947, finding an apt image in the persona of Syama Prasad Mookerjee. A rising tide of Leftist scholarship, politics and on-ground action, snuffed this out.

During the second half of the twentieth century, you were mostly laughed out of the room if you were overtly religious in your politics. The removal of the Left in 201, and its rapid dissolution into nothingness on the ground, has given the Sangh Parivar, buoyant after BJP’s national victory, space to regenerate religious ‘abracadabra’ in politics. Religion (not religious politics) had persisted among Bengalis in two ways: in the worship of local deities by subalterns in interior Bengal, and in the iconoclastic party atmosphere of the modern city Durga Puja. BJP has attacked both. It has injected religion into every topic of political discussion in Bengal: migration from Bangladesh (and the consequent rise in percentage of Muslims), culture (Tagore, Amartya Sen and other cultural icons were anti-Hindu, they say, when they propounded secularism as the only valid philosophy), and nationalism (secularism is effete and exposes the country to dangers.)

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