Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
The state assembly elections in West Bengal are the centre of political attention nowadays in India.
Several opinion polls about the elections (whose first of its eight phases is over ) predicted that the tally of the right-wing pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janta Party ( BJP ) will rise from the 3 seats it won in the 2016 elections to 112 out of the 294 seats in the state legislature.
However, my own view is that due to its overkill the BJP seats will be only between 50 and 75.
It is true that there has been tremendous religious polarization in West Bengal, whose 70% population is Hindu, 28% being Muslim. In the 2016 state assembly elections, the BJP won only 3 out of the 294 seats, but in the 2019 Parliamentary elections, it secured 18 out of the 42 seats from West Bengal. I have attributed this to Chief Minister Mamata Banerji’s policy of Muslim appeasement, which considerably antagonized the Hindus.
However, during the 2021 election campaign the BJP brought into the state most of its heavyweights, including Prime Minister Modi, Union Ministers Amit Shah and Raj Nath Singh, BJP President JP Nadda, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, etc, and it is has fielded 4 members of parliament.
Now Bengalis are a very proud and self-respecting people, who have a glorious heritage. They have produced great figures like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who are regarded as the fathers of India’s Renaissance. They have great achievements in science, art and literature, philosophy, etc.
One thing Bengalis (like many other people in India) don’t like is being dominated by outsiders. Mamata Banerji, despite all her faults, is regarded by most Bengalis as one of themselves, whereas if BJP comes to power Bengalis believe that the state will really be ruled from Delhi, because Modi is all-in BJP.
The BJP West Bengal President Dilip Ghosh was unknown till recently, and if BJP comes to power most Bengalis believe that the Chief Minister will really be a puppet, taking his orders from Delhi. That is the perception among most Bengalis, and it is very hurtful. It will in all likelihood cost the BJP many seats than those earlier forecasts.
If the BJP had kept its campaign on a lower key it may have got the number of seats as predicted in the opinion polls. But the juggernaut of its heavyweights which it has introduced in the state, none of whom are Bengali speaking, is likely to be counterproductive.
Moreover, people are asking where are the 2 crore jobs were promised annually by Modi? In fact, unemployment is at record heights in India. Prices of petrol, diesel, and foodstuffs have skyrocketed, which will certainly have an adverse effect on the BJP.