People tend to follow in the footsteps of their leaders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee needs to understand this now more than ever as her confrontational style of politics is apparently fueling violence among Trinamool Congress cadres. The latest example is Bhangar violence in which two people have lost their lives and several others injured after getting hit by bullets and bombs.
Since October 2016, farmers of Bhangar have been agitating against the construction of a Power Grid substation, which will transmit power between West Bengal and a part of Bihar. On Tuesday, the protest turned violent as the agitators not only torched a minimum of 10 police vehicles but also used bombs and firearms against the cops.
According to a report by The Indian Express, families of the victims said the firing was carried out by TMC cadres. Even police denied firing at the protesters, saying the mob started the firing and bombing and scores of police personnel were also injured.
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This is not the first time when TMC cadres have resorted to using bombs and guns during protests. More recently on January 4, Trinamool workers had attacked BJP MP Babul Suprio’s house, where his parents were staying, after the arrest of TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam. TMC workers had also attacked BJP offices and even set one in Hoogly on fire.
Not just the BJP, notorious TMC cadres don’t even leave leaders of the Left. In April 2016, a CPM leader had died after he was allegedly attacked by TMC activists in Sashan. Incidentally, Mamata never asks her cadres to exercise restraint. Though, she never loses an opportunity to attack the Centre.
On several occasions since demonetisation, Banerjee has openly threatened and openly challenged the Centre. Within days of the announcement of demonetisation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, Mamata had threatened the Centre to withdraw the decision or else there would be riots across the country.
Also, consider this recent comment against the Centre by her: “They thought TMC is made of soft mud so even rats can dig it. We fight with tigers, we won’t get rattled by rats … We are not afraid of rioters, Modi babu. He has not taken any lessons from Godhra riots.”
Several reports have pointed out that West Bengal has become a highly communally polarised state under Mamata. There are around 30% Muslim voters in West Bengal. Even as most of them are extremely poor, they vote en masse for Mamata. With the support of divided Hindus and united Muslims, Mamata enjoys a solid grip over the electorates. So much so that a communal riot in Dhulagarh last year went largely unreported and the state government didn’t take adequate action against rioters who set on fire dozens of Hindu homes in the area.
Mamata’s vicious silence on violent TMC cadres is dangerous. If she thinks that fanning communal sentiments and addressing particular sections of society would keep her in power for long, she is wrong. Her present political assets — confrontation with the Centre, violent cadres, politics in the name of poor and religion — would certainly come to hurt her back someday as at some point of time voters would know confontration is the not best medicine for development.