Mamata Banerjee's attempt to wipe out the Left opposition from Bengal has helped the RSS exponentially, says Malini Bhattacharya.
Former CPI(M) MP and Prof. Malini Bhattacharya, who had handed chief minister Mamata Banerjee, then a Congress candidate in the 1989-Lok Sabha elections from Jadavpur seat, her sole electoral defeat 32 years ago, does not feel the Trinamool Congress supremo is the face of the resistance to BJP, and believes her rule facilitated the rise of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the state.
Bhattacharya, a leading academic, maintains Banerjee retains “close relations with the RSS even today while indulging in slanging matches with the BJP leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
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Disagreeing that there is any pro-BJP wave in West Bengal, the former academic, blames the rise of the saffron party primarily due to anti-incumbency against the TMC.
Bhattacharya was fielded by CPI(M) in 1989 against Banerjee who had in the previous general election burst on the political scene by emerging as a giant slayer by defeating prominent CPI(M) leader Somenath Chatterjee from Jadavpur, considered a Communist bastion for long.
To the surprise of many, the Professor from Jadavpur University, managed to topple Banerjee and win the seat back for the CPI(M), just four years after the major upset. She won the Lok Sabha seat a second time running in 1991, and was dubbed ‘slayer of the giant slayer’ by the media for her efforts.
“There are some radical friends who tell us that in West Bengal Mamata is the face of the anti-BJP resistance and we have to go with her. But we must not forget that the ‘face’ and the reality may be two things Bhattacharya told PTI in an interview.
Ever since she set up her party, she (Banerjee) has been very close to RSS and all its manifestations here. I am not going into the matter of her participation in NDA govt as minister, but even today for all her slanging matches with Modi-Shah, her close relations with RSS continue,” she pointed out.
Banerjee’s attempt to wipe out the Left opposition from Bengal has helped the RSS exponentially, she added. “One must not forget that her (Banerjee’s) rabid attempts to eliminate the Left opposition in the state both physically and politically and her demolition of democratic institutions has helped exponential growth of RSS in the state during her regime,” she said.
Bhattacharya also believes that communal conflict which was firmly dealt by the Left Front in Bengal, witnessed a “resurgence” during the Mamata Banerjee-led government. “This state just as it can boast of a rich syncretic tradition also had a history of communal conflict till the 1960s. The Left was able to deal firmly with the latter, but the ingredients of communalism have not vanished and during Mamata’s regime, the stoking of these fires has seen resurgence of communal incidents,” she claimed.
According to the former chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women said “In the field of employment, agriculture, education, Banerjee has only been following Modi’s path of serving corporate interests. She has (also) behaved exactly like BJP to control all dissidence,” she said.
Bhattacharya said that the rise of the BJP has assisted divisiveness on religious and ethnic grounds as well as subversion of democratic institutions, rigging of elections, electoral violence. horse trading thus changing how politics used to be in West Bengal.
“Yes, times have changed. BJP’s rise in the early nineties of course gave us an inkling to what might happen. But now the scenario has changed not only in the country but in West Bengal itself. Subversion of democratic institutions, rigging of elections, electoral violence. horse trading are all rampant. So is divisiveness on religious and ethnic grounds,” she claimed.
Bhattacharya felt the left would gain from three positive factors in these elections. Firstly, we have successfully put together political forces against BJP in West Bengal on a common democratic-secular platform. Secondly, a generation of young workers have taken up the challenge to fight fascist forces and thirdly, efforts of our workers has created the space for policy alternatives we are talking about.
She added that a feeling has grown among progressive intellectuals that the battle against fascist forces cannot be fought without the Left.
Talking about the Left’s journey from the famous slogan of the 1960s, ‘Tomar naam aamar naam Vietnam’ (your name, my name, Vietnam) to ‘Tumpa sona'(Golden Tumpa) in 2021, she said, “Tumpa Sona is not one of my favourites and as a worker for women’s equality I have some issues with part of the content. But young people are writing songs, performing plays, producing short films What is important is that alternatives to fascism must be found.”
The former academic from Jadavpur University still feels that her former electoral rival cannot be trusted. “Even if she (Mamata) were to come to power again speculatively with our support, she would be doing all the same things. We cannot even be sure whether she will gang up with BJP again.”