Electoral compulsions make Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, a rank Islamist apologist, to wear her Hindu faith on her sleeve. Taking a leaf out of Left Front’s book, Mamata allowed ‘Islamisation project’ to take root in West Bengal for political gains. Her disdain for ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is well-known. Now, with ‘faith acrobatics’ and proclaiming her Brahmin origins, she hopes to pull wool over Hindus’ eyes
What makes Mamata Banerjee a 'Hindu' and what is the compulsion behind it?
BJP stalwart L K Advani had rightfully coined the term pseudo-secular. Politicians of her category certainly fit into the club of being the 'champions of pseudo-secularism'. They would focus their polity and administrative powers to appease religious minorities –push vote bank strategy even over wrong issues; but during election season they could be spotted around temples.
Aiming not to offend Hindus, Mamata Banerjee has started chanting Hindu mantras and reciting Chandipath. This is called being a ‘political Hindu’.
“Most of what she has been saying in the name of Hindu mantras and Chandipath are wrong. She is often mis-pronouncing the words and missing out key terms making a mockery of Hinduism. People of Nandigram and my state will never forgive her,” says Suvendu Adhikari, a former lieutenant of Mamata and now taking on the Chief Minister in a fierce contest.
For long and not without good reasons, Mamata had an image of a ‘Muslim appeaser’ and has perhaps as a design kept herself away from Hindu rituals and practices. Her regime also had created hurdles for Goddess Durga statues immersion– an unthinkable episode in her State - even as her administration moved heaven and earth to ensure smooth conduct of Muharram processions. Her party certainly paid a price for these in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Now, she realises the importance of winning back Hindu support base, and thus she is tryingto run the extra mile to be on the right side of the majority voters. Mamata visited more than half a dozen Hindu temples and chanted mantras in public places on the day she filed her nomination.
The Mamata camp is unnerved by numerous factors. One of them is strong anti-incumbency mood. Secondly, a fierce challenge from the BJP and its candidate Suvendu to herself at Nandigram.
Mamata Banerjee has already moved out of her original Assembly Bhawanipore in Kolkata as her party’s vote share nosedived. Though Trinamool had managed a lead of 3168 in Bhawanipore Assembly segment under Kolkata South Lok Sabha constituency in 2019 polls, the BJP had given her a shock as it managed a lead in Kolkata Municipal Corporation ward No 73, where Trinamool supremo resides. In fact, 17 of her ministers trailed in their respective seats.
But a more important reason that has made her a party desperate about Hindu votes is the likelihood of split in her Muslim vote share due to formation of a formidable alliance between the Congress-Left-and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) of Abbas Siddiqui.
Trinamool leader Farid Hakim told senior colleagues Saugata Roy and Partha Chatterjee in a meeting in Kolkata that this alliance would “surely cut into” Trinamool’s vote share among Muslims. This analysis is more of an admission for the earlier fault-line.The parliamentary elections in 2019 were proof, says Asansol-based educationist Jhantu Dey that BJP's win of 18 seats out of 42 Lok Sabha seats was because of the shift of a large portion of CPI-M and other Left parties' vote.
But can she make a difference now by her new tricks? Observers say finally it is up to the people of Bengal. But Trinamool is crafting its electoral strategy with lot of thoughts. Mamata has pushed ‘Bangla-r meye (Bengal’s daughter)’ card more aggressively.It is a move to divide the Hindu vote. Strategy wise it makes sense as women form nearly 49 per cent of Bengal voters. Therefore, her party has tried to highlight schemes like ‘Kanyashree’, under which a girl child gets Rs 25,000 once she is in Class 8, and also ‘Rupashree’ that would give Rs 25,000 to a girl’s family when she turns 18.
Trinamool has also announced cash relief for widows. But women voters in Bengal know it pretty well that the BJP has also come out with their versions in the manifesto promising for example Rs 22,000, to be offered in four instalments at different points during schooling of a girl. Under Balika Ayog, the Saffron party says Rs 2 lakh grant would be granted for unmarried girls who have completed their higher secondary education up to Class 12. “Look here, the issues of corruption, tola-baazi (forceful Bengali Hindu extortion) and minority appeasement matter to Bengali Hindu women voters too,” says housewife Monti Das in Siliguri. Therefore, her argument - Mamata’s neo-gestures of ‘winning back Hindu support’ may not work.
Mamata has already moved out of her original Bhawanipore seat in Kolkata as her party’s vote share nosedived. Though Trinamool had managed a lead of 3168 in Bhawanipore Assembly segment under Kolkata South Lok Sabha constituency in 2019 polls, the BJP had given her a shock as it managed a lead in Kolkata Municipal Corporation ward no 73, where Mamata resides. 17 of her ministers trailed in their respective seats
But BJP foot-soldiers working in Muslim-pockets in Malda in North Bengal or Asansol areas in the southernpart of the state, say Mamata regime’s ‘tactful strategy’ to fool Hindus should not be lost. Hence, they say Trinamool should be exposed before the people effectively. Some police stations, they point out, had last year circulated posters requesting the Muslim community not to slaughter animals in the open. In South 24 Parganas district, civil administration issued posters with a message for Muslims urging them to show ‘respect to the religious sentiments of Hindu brothers’. It said, animals should not be slaughtered in public and that they should not post any such video or images in social media. All these came too late.
There is large scale scepticism about Bengal police vis-a-vis delivering justice to Hindus.In Durgapur, Sushanto Maity says, “We do not believe Mamata Banerjee and hence we cannot believe her policetoo. They look the other way when Muslims and Trinamool supporters are wrongdoers. Even traffic police have been partial leaving out people driving without helmets if they wore a particular type of skull caps.”
This is precisely Mamata’s problem. There is immense trust deficit.
Journalists tracking Trinamool Congress say her party colleagues like Derek-O’-Brien and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar had informally objected to utterance of ‘Om Shanti’ words in Parliament during obituary references to sitting or former members. “There was a time when the Trinamool Congress anything seemingly seen as part of Indian and Hindu culture, the Trinamool Congress would vehemently oppose to," says BJP leader Saumitra Khan, who was elected to Lok Sabha in 2014 on a Trinamool ticket.
In September 2000, on Hindi Diwas, Mamata restructured her party’s defunct Hindi cell, re-introduced a Hindi academy and announced allowances for Hindu priests. But Mamata’s leadership ‘defects’ and duplicity towards Hindu cause have been exposed so well. People know her pretty well. Mamata is herself responsible for most of what has gone wrong for her.