May a good source be with you.

Left is Helping BJP: The Liberal Bogey to Defend Mamata

Why is the national liberal media doing this? The answer, perhaps, lies in their dislike for communists and, hold your breath, lower caste leaders.

Binary is good. At least for the Indian political analyst. Because it makes life easy for corporate media — the employer. The venom-spewing right-wing media and their more balanced liberal brethren are on the same page about it. So it is still Congress versus BJP, Modi versus Rahul, at the national level even though it is clear that the real thorn in BJP’s flesh in these Lok Sabha elections is the Mayawati-Akhilesh duo, since they are pushing BJP to the wall in the biggest state of India.

But what to do? Our political analysts’ brains just cannot process a three-cornered or four-cornered contest anywhere in this vast and varied country of ours. West Bengal, therefore, has become their nightmare. They were happily reporting it as a duel between two right-wing parties — BJP and TMC. Alas! As this long election campaign progressed, they realised they could not ignore the left. How could they? When the TRP-boosting Bengal chief minister herself said “apnar vote ta CPM ke deben na. Ota BJP ke shaktishalee karbe” (Don’t cast your vote in favour of CPM. It’ll strengthen BJP)?

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It is not foolish to count that remark of Mamata Banerjee as a reluctant acknowledgment of the fact that West Bengal’s left is far from dead — as she has been suggesting for long — and that TMC is not confident of holding on to its own vote share. Hence the appeal to left voters. From that same public meeting on April 13, she told Congress supporters that the party had become a signboard in Bengal, so they should also vote for TMC. A vote for Congress is a vote for BJP.

mamata modi
(L-R) PM Modi, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and union minister Babul Supriyo (PC: Facebook/@BabulSupriyoFans)

Laughable as they are, the story any political reporter or analyst anywhere in the world would have read in that speech is that West Bengal is looking at a multi-cornered contest. But not our analysts. For them it was a cue to make didi look like the lone crusader against fascist BJP.

How to go about it then? Repeat her point that voting for the left is futile since it is a vote for BJP, and go a step further.

Thus one reporter writes CPM cadres are helping BJP. How? By managing booths where BJP does not have people. Pray what is the help? Keeping “vigil in polling booths on election day, wherever the BJP has not been able to field their agents.” As if the CPM agents’ job, otherwise, was to bring their pillows to the booth and have a sound sleep while the anti-BJP crusaders of TMC managed the election according to their wish. And who informed the reporter of this “unwritten pact”? Not even an anonymous CPM cadre but “senior BJP functionaries”.

Elsewhere, somebody writes about people who have always voted for the left but now realise what Mamata said i.e. voting for CPM is futile. Their solution is different from Mamata though. They will vote for BJP. Strangely, this writer is learned enough to occupy a page on a widely-read website, but not mature enough to differentiate between a general voter and a party cadre. While a party cadre working to benefit another party is unethical, a supporter is within his rights to change his loyalty. It happens all over the world. In fact, it is how democracy survives. Otherwise one party would be ruling one state or one country forever. But, of course, our analyst is not so stupid that he would not recognize this obvious fallacy in his logic. To cover for it, he tells us about a battery-operated rickshaw driver in Bongaon constituency, who says “My whole family supports CPI(M). Now, voting it means wasting the vote. Local leaders personally asked us to vote for the BJP to defeat the TMC.” Conveniently in all these stories, the writer never gets to talk to any of those local leaders. They are like ghosts. Everyone knows someone who has seen a ghost.

West bengal

But you cannot say that about the newspaper columnist who tells us stories of CPM cadres who had joined BJP, promising “sheshmesh CPMei phirbo” (in the end, we’ll return to CPM), but never did. We are told that joining BJP and coming back later was a well-planned strategy of CPM leadership in Jangalmahal, which did not work out the way they imagined and ended up strengthening BJP. But we are never told which leadership planned it. Local, district or state level leadership? The only CPM man the analyst quotes, says nothing of the sort. Logic of journalism is clearly on summer vacation.

Some analysts are admittedly more sophisticated. They draw their conclusions from whatsapp messages spread by West Bengal BJP’s IT cell. And what are those conclusions? Let’s look at a few samples:

  1. BJP’s marginalisation ended with large numbers of CPI(M) workers shifting first to the TMC, and then the BJP, where the grass looked greener.”
  1. From the sidelines, the CPI(M) has been watching Bengal’s political ground shift to the Right. It can be argued, given the scenes currently playing out in the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign, that the Communist party even gloated over the danger looming large over Mamata’s government.”
  1. As Bengal heads towards a dramatic political turnabout of sorts, CPI(M) supporters are seen marching alongside BJP leaders, campaigning in the name of Modi.”

This analyst does not go into the reasons behind the shift. Neither does she care to tell us which scenes in this Lok Sabha campaign show the Communist party is gloating over the danger to Mamata’s government posed by BJP. And once again, we see supporters judged by a party cadre’s yardstick.

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Now, for a moment, let us overlook the inconsistencies of our analysts and discuss the viability of what they have alleged. These are serious allegations because common cadres and supporters of both anti-left and extreme left parties are echoing these analysts on and off social media.

First, is it possible for Party A to openly campaign for their own candidate, then come back to the same people and do a whispering campaign for Party B? No. Because this is not some panchayat or municipal election we are talking about. A Lok Sabha seat has lakhs of voters. Reaching out to them twice with two different messages? If CPM still has so much organisational strength, why does Mamata Banerjee say voting for them is futile? Why is every analyst saying they will get zero from Bengal? Who are we fooling here?

Second, Mamata, the democrat, has been so accommodative of the opposition during her reign that many left workers at the grassroot level have left the party and joined TMC. Some have even joined BJP. That has been happening since 2011. Those who have not, therefore, are risking their lives and livelihood. Why would they ask people to vote for any symbol other than the hammer-and-sickle, for which they have sacrificed everything?

Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Why these stories with weak evidences then? One purpose could be pleasing the chief minister, which would be a strong enough reason for the local media. Talk to any Kolkata journalist privately, and you will know how her government stops ads to newspapers the moment she does not like one news item. But why is the national liberal media doing this? The answer, perhaps, lies in their dislike for communists and, hold your breath, lower caste leaders. To the anti-BJP, nevertheless predominantly Hindu upper caste newsrooms, Mamata’s two big qualities are being the slayer of communists and being a Brahmin. That is why she is the anti-fascist messiah they bank on to defeat Modi. Never mind the fact that her own rule is full of semi-fascist features.

Not only have political opponents been put behind bars with cooked up cases, driven out of their villages, even killed, but people have been arrested by Mamata’s police for posting on social media against her, her party or her administration. Soon after coming to power, she suspended the superintendent of a top government hospital for saying on her face that her surprise inspection with an army of mediapersons was hampering the hospital’s daily work. Search Google with Dr SP Gorai, Dr Arunachal Dutta Chowdhury, Ambikesh Mahapatra or Shiladitya, and you will know what a dystopic state West Bengal has been since Mamata’s ascension. Mamata’s Bengal even has a parallel for what Vasundhara Raje’s Rajasthan did to Padmavat’. A film called Bhabishyater Bhoot, having a CBFC certificate, was not allowed to run in cinema halls across the state. Unlike Rajasthan, it suffered silent hooliganism i.e nobody owned up saying “I have told cinema halls not to run it.” The CM refused to answer any questions regarding that film when one journalist dared to ask her during a press conference. In the end, the Supreme Court had to intervene. The court imposed an unprecedented fine on the state government for its action, or should we say inaction.

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All this is well-documented. But our so-called liberal media will not tell the rest of the country or the Bengal voters all this. Because then they will have to admit that reports of left’s death was an exaggeration. Apart from being disastrous for the photogenic, cacophonic binary of Modi versus Mamata, that would also require a rethink about the issues that concern Bengal voters.

What are those? TMC’s corruption. Saradha scam, where poorest of the poor were robbed by Mamata’s stooges. Narada scam, where her party leaders were seen accepting money on camera. SSC scam, where the public examination to recruit school teachers has been bypassed to sell those jobs for bribe. The national media mostly ignored the 28-day hunger strike by the would-be teachers at the heart of Kolkata in March.

Mayawati is denounced by the liberal media every now and then for being corrupt. Her corruption is never glossed over for her fight against Modi, Mamata’s is. Because the Dalit woman is not palatable as a national leader, err probable Prime Minister. The Bengali Brahmin woman is. So liberal media will never question Mamata for the religious polarization Bengal has seen since 2011, and will not count that as a reason for BJP’s rise. They will not write a line about how TMC leaders have joined BJP and become candidates in this election but reams about CPM supporters deciding to vote for BJP.

It not only suits TMC but also hurts the liberal cause. Because when a potential anti-BJP voter reads all this talk about the left helping BJP, he/she could get disgusted and vote straight for BJP instead. Or, if he believes this propaganda, vote for TMC.

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