West Bengal at boiling point? Rath Yatra politics sparks fresh tension between Mamata Banerjee, Amit Shah

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New Delhi | Published: December 7, 2018 5:31:45 PM

The BJP has gone all guns blazing to consolidate its position in West Bengal.

mamata banerjee, congress, bjp, tmc, west bengal, parliamentary election, west bengal local elections, ram navami celebrations in west bengal, bjp rath yatra, bjp rath yatra in west bengalConfrontations between Mamata and the BJP are not new.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has gone all guns blazing to consolidate its position in West Bengal just months ahead of the general elections in the country. Buoyed by a decent performance in the local body elections, where it did much better than once dominating Left Front in the state, the BJP is hoping it can get a bigger stronghold in a state that is currently dominated by Mamata Banerjee.

While confrontations between Mamata and the BJP are not new, the latest flashpoint over Mamata blocking BJP’s plans to hold three Rath Yatras across West Bengal signals the initiation of a political slugfest going into the crucial Lok Sabha polls in 2019. BJP president Amit Shah’s grand plans to reach out to voters in eastern India suffered a setback when the Trinamool Congress government did not give it permission. Angered, the state unit of BJP even approached the Calcutta High Court seeking permission. However, the BJP had to return empty-handed and has appealed in the division bench.

Refusing to surrender, BJP president Amit Shah slammed the Mamata Banerjee government said that the party had decided to postpone its rallies and not cancelled. Shah said Mamata was scared that the BJP’s rallies will sow the seeds of change in West Bengal. Shah then declared that the BJP has only postponed the rallies and not cancelled them. He said the rallies will be held in West Bengal and he will inaugurate them. BJP had earlier announced that it plans to organise three rallies starting today from Cooch Behar.

That the BJP and the TMC have never seen eye to eye is no secret. The cadre of both these parties have often indulged in in violent clashes. A few months back, there were reports of violence between party workers leading to some deaths during local elections. The panchayat polls also saw crude bombs being hurled. Such incidents of violence are reported every week, with both sides blaming each other for it.

Even yesterday, BJP’s West Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh’s convoy came under attack in Cooch Behar. Taking to Twitter, he wrote, “It is sad & unbelievable when violence mars the Holy Land of Thakur Panchanan Barma.On our way to this shrine,TMC goons attacked us shamelessly wrecking and breaking our vehicles. Desperation of TMC to stop us & Yatra by all ruthless means is so evident in their acts of violence.”

Also read: BJP moves HC after Mamata Banerjee blocks Amit Shah’s Bengal Rath Yatra, hearing at 12.30 pm today

The war of words between Mamata and Ghosh have often turned nasty. Arguments have also included religious matters. Amid a growing clamour for construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, Mamata Bannerjee had slammed the BJP and said, “They talk of Ram, we pray before Goddess Durga; Lord Ram also performed Durga Puja.”

Violence was reported during Ram Navami celebrations last year when the Mamata government had banned Ram Navami processions. Several clashes were reported in parts of the state leading to deaths. It took authorities quite some time to bring things under control. The decision gave the BJP an opportunity to project Mamata as a pro-Muslim party and helped the saffron party make inroads into some areas of the state. The results in rural polls where the BJP made significant ground in Purulia and Malda are testimony to the impact it had.

Sensing the political pulse, Mamata organised Ram Navami processions by the TMC in all districts of the state. Aware that it may lose whatever ground it had made, the BJP sought to embark on a mass connect programme to get Hindu voters into its fold.

The latest flashpoint between BJP and TMC makes it clear that the state has switched to election mode. West Bengal in particular may see a multi-cornered fight between TMC, Congress, BJP and left Fronts if no alliances are formed.

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