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From BAM To RAM

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Since the 2019 Lok Sabha election in Bengal when BJP won 18 seats and got over 40 per cent of the vote share, a whopping gain of 30 per cent from the 2016 assembly election, the shift of the Left support base, from 26.6 per cent to 7.5 per cent during the same period, explains the new political dynamics in the state. While the politically potent slogan “Agey Ram, Porey Bam” (First BJP, then Left) became the explainer, the anchor of the slogan and the intent behind the same became a matter of contentious debate.

The incumbent Trinamool blames it on the vitriolic anti-Mamata mentality of the CPM, which in their desperation to see the Trinamool defeated, aligned with the devil. To the Left, the slogan was a mischievous strategy employed by the BJP and other Hindutva affiliates to mislead the people and cash in on their genuine anti-Trinamool sentiment. But on the ground, a majority of the respondents who admitted shifting from the CPM to the BJP in 2019 offered a genealogy which reveals that none of these parties played an active part in coining the slogan.

They felt let down by the sheer inability of the state level Left leadership, a factor perceived intensely in the backdrop of the aggressive anti-Trinamool pitch Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah peddled. Thus, the sentiment of the majority of the Left voters and the BJP struck a chord. The result was visible in 2019. Interestingly, with the further consolidation of the anti-Trinamool sentiment, the Left, particularly the CPM, is standing on the inter-sectionality of having a positive perception among its erstwhile voters while being considered electorally irrelevant in the ensuing election. This puzzle of faring positive on perception but negative in terms of electoral relevancy signifies the uneven dialectics between the anti-Trinamool rhetoric of the CPM and the BJP.

Shorn of ground assertion, the Left leaders intensified their verbal attack against the Trinamool. Politically, this was a phase of everyday isolation for the Left support base. The entry of Modi and Shah with the same anti-incumbency pitch, albeit with a cultural twist, was both beautiful as well as frightening for them. It was in this state of dilemma that a pragmatic approach became the common sense for the majority of Left voters as they had two templates to choose from: the rational but complacent body language of the Left leadership and the decisive and aggressive posturing by the BJP’s top leadership.

Unambiguously, they got swayed by brand BJP and abandoned the Left, at least for the time being. The Left by its complacency contributed to constituting a conducive ambience for the popular reception of the BJP as a credible alternative to the incumbent. This led to the emergence of the BJP as a credible alternative to the incumbent despite their organisational weakness. Having lost the perception war to the BJP, the Left was further trapped into another dilemma. While they were on the same plane with the BJP as far as attacking the Trinamool on corruption and hooliganism was concerned, they had to align with Mamata Banerjee on ideological grounds. It was here the BJP scored a clear advantage.

A combination of issues like a series of low and high intensity communal incidents, NRC and CAA led to the Left and the Trinamool coming on the same horizon against the BJP. Normatively, the Left was making the right choices in all the instances, but politically it was facing further marginalisation. The people on the ground were privileging their experience over the ideology. The coming of the Left and the Trinamool together on many issues on an ideological ground led to the polarisation of the polity wherein the political fault lines got clearly demarcated between the incumbent and the BJP with the Left playing the second fiddle to the saffron party.

This state of in-betweenness further alienated its own support base. The ones who were at the receiving end of the Trinamool’s violence felt let down by their old party. Lastly, the BJP played its cards quite meticulously fearing an electoral backlash from a significant section of the electorate on NRC as the northern and eastern regions of the state is inhabited by the partition-affected refugees who have deep apprehension of the law. To placate the expected antagonism, the BJP hurried with the passing of the CAA and thereby assured its emerging support base, particularly the Namoshudra Dalits.

Unlike other partition refugees, the Namoshudras’ migration to India picked momentum in the 1980s when Bangladesh witnessed Islamisation under President Hussain Muhammad Irshad. Since then the community has been crossing the border and coming to India continuously. My interaction with the community members revealed an interesting dynamics. Shah’s remark on first the CAA and then the NRC has served its purpose among the community, which is willing to believe the BJP. Hence, if ground sentiment is the explainer, the BJP by the instrument of the CAA has emerged as the main votary of the refugee issue which the Left once championed.

Courtesy – https://www.newindianexpress.com/

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