"Bharatiya Janata Party is the only real party of West Bengal,” thundered Prime Minister Narendra Modi and rightfully so, at a poll rally in Kharagpur on March 20, 2021. “The people of Bengal gave Didi (Mamata Banerjee) 10 years, but she paid them back by giving them 10 years of destruction and violence,” added the PM, reinforcing that Syama Prasad Mookerjee's values were in the DNA of the BJP. “Yesterday, we got agitated when Facebook and What's App's services were down for 45 to 50 minutes. Imagine the condition of Bengal. It's vikas (development) and vishwas (trust) have been down for 50 to 55 years," added, the Prime Minister, completely exposing the gross incompetence of the Mamata Banerjee government that ruled West Bengal for ten long years.
“You have seen destruction by Congress and the Left. The TMC ruined your dreams. In the last 70 years, you gave opportunities to everyone but give us 5 years, we will free Bengal from the 70 years of destruction, we will sacrifice our lives for you," further stated the PM.
From CAA to income for every family, BJP’s Bengal poll manifesto leaves out nothing. The manifesto has a special focus on Bengali culture and women, who have been promised free education from kindergarten to post-graduation level, 33 per cent reservation in jobs and free rides in public transport. The BJP in its manifesto, also promised to implement the new citizenship law, ensure employment to one member of every family, set up modern hospitals, spend thousands of crores of rupees for development of infrastructure in Kolkata and various districts, besides supporting farmers, fishermen, tribal population and backward classes.
In fact, there is a special focus on women, with whom the document starts. The focus is also on Bengali language and culture. The BJP's sankalp patra or vision document, even talks of a whistle-blower policy for unearthing corruption, three AIIMS-like hospitals in North Bengal region where the BJP won seven of the eight Lok Sabha seats in 2019 and a minimum wage of Rs 350 for tea garden workers. The BJP has also promised to include the Hindu Mahishya and Tili communities into the Other Backward Class category, while measures to uplift the lot of two Dalit Hindu communities, the Rajbanshis of North Bengal and Matuas of South Bengal, were also announced. The Matuas are a part of the backward Namasudra community, that can influence poll results in around 80 of the State’s 294 Assembly seats.
Targeting TMC for Pampering Minorities
While releasing the BJP’s Bengal manifesto, Union Home Minister Amit Shah castigated Trinamool Congress (TMC) in harshest tone. He said: “In 10 years, the misrule of the TMC has spread only despair. Mamata Banerjee’s vote bank politics includes appeasement, even allowing cow smuggling. She has politicised the administration, criminalised politics and institutionalised corruption,” said the Minister. Some of the salient promises in the manifesto are annual assistance of Rs 10,000 to Bengal’s farmers, annual assistance of Rs 6000 and mechanised boats for fishermen, medical insurance under Ayushman Bharat scheme. Zero infiltration across the international border, assistance of Rs 10,000 for five years for refugees, a literary award similar to the Nobel Prize named after Rabindranath Tagore, a film award styled after the Oscars named after legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray and monthly pension of Rs 3000 for widows are other promises.
In September 2020, the NIA arrested 5 suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists from Murshidabad who were planning an attack on Kochi, Mumbai and Delhi. ...Radicalised infiltrators from Bangladesh, including Rohingyas, have made a mess of Bengal's law and order machinery in the last ten years, while Mamata has turned a blind eye to the rising lawlessness
Consolidation of Hindu votes
Massive discontent against TMC, erosion of Left votes and consolidation of Hindu voters are being seen by political pundits as major reasons behind BJP's unprecedented rise in Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana for providing LPG connections to women below poverty line, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana offering affordable financial services and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for affordable housing have completely redefined the lives of millions in rural Bengal. It is true that driven by hubris, Mamata Banerjee stonewalled many popular schemes of the Modi government, including Ayushman Bharat and PM Kisan Yojana. However, despite Mamata's refusal to implement Central Government schemes, the Modi government ensured that the fruits of development were not held back.
Though communal polarisation and consolidation of Hindu votes towards BJP is being talked about, we must remember that of the 18 Lok Sabha seats BJP won in Bengal, there are at least seven to eight seats - Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar, Darjeeling and Alipurduar in North Bengal and Purulia, Jhargram and Bankura in Junglemahal region, that did not have sizeable minority population. So clearly, communal polarisation was not a factor in those places. Of late, mammoth rallies by Amit Shah at Thakurnagar and Cooch Behar and equally gigantic rallies by BJP's National President, J.P. Nadda at Nabadwip and Birbhum are a testimony, to BJP's growing stature in Bengal.
The Modi government's phenomenal pace of work is evident from the fact that over 2.36 crore rural and semi urban people and over 1.06 crore urban people in Bengal have benefitted from the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, that aims to provide universal access to banking facilities,with at least one basic banking account for every household.
Total number of beneficiaries under this scheme is more than 3.42 crore in Bengal.
Speaking of Mamata Banerjee's incompetence, there are several instances of how she made failed attempts to clone some highly successful central schemes of the Modi government. The Krishak Bandhu scheme is one such example. The TMC government tried copying the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, but the Krishak Bandhu scheme has largely been a non starter. On the other hand, over Rs 1.10 lakh crore has been given to over 12 crore farmers via PM Kisan. Eighty per cent of rural farm households in Bengal do not have Kisan Credit Cards due to lack of clear land titles and lack of access to information on how to apply for these cards.
Blood in Bengal
Due to the mismanagement and apathy of the TMC government, as many as 215 farmers committed suicide from 2011 to 2019. But the State government did not taken any affirmative action to prevent the same. Last year, the TMC government reportedly procured 42,000 tonnes of potatoes to stabilise market price and provide “fair price” to farmers. Despite clearance from the Agriculture Department of the State and the rise in potato prices to Rs 40/kg in the open markets, the Chief Minister’s Office refused to budge. Had the Mamata government released the potato stock, potato prices would not have skyrocketed.
Unable to Eradicate Child Marriage
Again, Kanyashree Prakalpa, a scheme aimed at empowering the girls of Bengal through enabling their education and eventually preventing their marriage at an early age, has been an eyewash. The Mamata regime expressed “inability to furnish relevant records due to privacy and security” to the CAG in 2017,when asked to show details about the scheme. District level analysis revealed that 39 per cent of girls in Murshidabad are married between the age 15 and 19, which is more than the 33 per cent figure of 2005-06. Kanyashree, clearly, failed to eradicate child marriage.
A worrisome reality is that Malda and Murshidabad in West Bengal have emerged to be the two most dangerous districts in the entire country, posing national security threats. In September 2020, the NIA arrested five suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists from Murshidabad who were planning an attack on Kochi, Mumbai and Delhi. One of the suspected terrorists, suspected to be a Rohingya and a Zakir Nair follower, advocated the necessity of waging wars for Islamic causes. Radicalised infiltrators from Bangladesh, including Rohingyas, have made a mess of Bengal's law and order machinery in the last ten years, while Mamata has turned a blind eye to the rising lawlessness.
TMC Fudging Data
More than 600 women have been brutalised as a result of ‘Love Jihad’, within the South Malda parliamentary area, alone. This has occurred under the wider umbrella of Islamisation or Ghazwa-e-Hind, that Mamata has been tacitly encouraging. West Bengal has failed to provide data for the 2019 report of the National Crime Records Bureau. Consequently, crime assessment has been made based on the data from 2018.
Given the tendency of the TMC government to fudge and manipulate data, the real picture of law and order in Bengal, is likely much worse. The highest number of unrecovered missing females was from West Bengal, with nearly 64,832 females gone missing. They remain untraced till date. Kolkata also reported the highest number of missing women among Indian cities during 2018,with 2584 cases.
Amidst a leadership crisis in Bengal that went from bad to worse over the past ten years, corruption has wreaked a havoc. More than 2100 complaints were lodged amidst widespread clashes and attacks on panchayat and block development offices and against alleged embezzlement by the TMC.
TMC’s favoritism towards its own party members became clear when the State health department published a list of 647 candidates for filling up the post of clinical tutors and demonstrators, across various categories in the medical education service, doctors’ bodies and medical students’ forums. Most of the posts were filled, not based on merit but based on allegiance to the TMC. For instance, a young man of 25 years, who had just completed his MBBS, was selected to be the RMO of Bangur Institute of Neurology, even though the eligibility for the post required a 3-year MD and another 30 year DM experience, after completing MBBS. However, father of this RMO is a powerful TMC leader. So rules were bent mercilessly.
West Bengal has seen a wasted decade under Mamata Banerjee's leadership or rather the lack of it, between 2011 and 2021. In sharp contrast, despite the BJP not being in power in Bengal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, true to his magnanimous and towering stature, has never ever indulged in partisan politics. In the Union Budget 2021,Rs 25,000 crore has been allotted towards 675 km of highways to be built in Bengal. Recently, PM Modi dedicated four infrastructure projects worth Rs 4700 crore at Haldia, including the inauguration of three projects pertaining to Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, BPCL’s LPG Import Terminal, GAIL’s Dobhi-Durgapur Natural Gas Pipeline and NHAI’s four lane road overbridge-cum-flyover at Ranichak. These projects will redefine West Bengal and entire Eastern India in terms of Aatma Nirbharta of connectivity and availability of clean fuel, besides improving both ease of living and ease of doing business in the region. These projects will also help Haldia to grow into a major hub of export-import. Scarcity of gas was leading to closure of industry in the eastern region. Therefore, a decision was taken to connect Bengal with the eastern and western ports, via the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project.
Bengal Deserves Better
Good governance is not merely a platitude for the Modi government. This was evident when Modi inaugurated the extension of Kolkata Metro Railway from Noapara to Dakshineswar, last month. In the final analysis, suffice to say that the decisive winds of change that are blowing in favour of the BJP, ahead of the Bengal polls, is not merely about a huge anti-incumbency wave against the inept and corrupt Mamata Banerjee dispensation but more importantly, it is about the crying need for “poriborton” and change. Why should Bengal not demand stability,a functional law and order machinery, jobs and growth? Why should Bengal not seek an aspirational society? Thirty four years of debilitating rule under the Leftists, before being subjected to ten years of complete apathy by the TMC have shackled Bengal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mammoth and unprecedented rally on March 7,2021 at the Brigade Parade ground, has re-written history, that is in the making. The sea of humanity that chanted Jai Shree Ram and Bharat Mata ki Jai, at PM Modi's stupendous rally on this ground, will remain the defining moment, for decades together. Numbers never lie and the colossal numbers that showed up on March 7,2021, clearly corroborate that the people of Bengal are ready for change and for a Shonar Bangla, that has been long overdue. Bengal seems to have made its choice and rightfully so.
Anti-incumbency Wave Against Mamata
In the final analysis, one of the lasting images of the West Bengal elections, that have truly been the catalyst this poll season, is the Brigade Parade ground rally, by PM Modi. This historic ground hosted one of its first political meetings in 1919, when Chittaranjan Das and other nationalist leaders rallied against the Rowlatt Act. After India gained Independence, this ground has been used by various government agencies, political parties and other organisations to hold events, but never in its recent history, has the Brigade Parade ground seen the kind of “Jan Sailaab” or mammoth turnout, that was witnessed on March 7, 2021, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, delivered that iconic address, in the run-up to the Bengal elections.
On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee, was the chief organiser of a youth Congress rally in 1992,on these grounds. She had then rung a huge symbolic bell called CPI-M's death knell. Now, 29 years later, Banerjee has created for herself a massive anti-incumbency wave, with the winds of change decisively blowing against her and her corrupt and incompetent regime. The people of Bengal are yearning for a real change (Asol Poriborton) and, rightfully so.
(The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and Bestselling Author of "Truth &Dare-The Modi Dynamic")