Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

Saffron the new red in Bengal? 10-fold jump in TMC-BJP clashes this year

Jaitley at a meeting with intellectuals in Kolkata on Sunday. ( Source: PTI ) Jaitley at a meeting with intellectuals in Kolkata on Sunday. ( Source: PTI )
Written by Subrata Nagchowdhury | Kolkata | Posted: August 25, 2014 4:54 am

Clashes between members of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the ousted CPI(M) are routine grist for West Bengal’s political mill. But in a clear sign of shifting winds, there’s been a dramatic surge in the number of incidents in which the TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are violently pitted against each other.

A scrutiny of detailed police records, accessed by The Indian Express, shows that in the year 2012, there were just 13 clashes between TMC and the BJP, this climbed to 48 the following year and in just the first seven months of 2014 for which data is available — and during which the BJP made significant electoral gains — the number of such clashes has risen to as many as 196. Projected for this year, that’s more than a ten-fold jump.

While TMC vs CPM violence still dominates, numbers suggest no marked change: there were 1,916 incidents in 2013, and 802 incidents between January 1 and June 30 this year.

Although there has been only one casualty and 250 injured BJP workers, the number of TMC vs BJP clashes, averaging more than one a day, are a testament to the new battlelines being drawn in a fierce turf war in rural West Bengal in which the TMC’s traditional political rivals, the Left and, more recently, the Congress, are fast being replaced by the BJP.

The reason isn’t hard to find. With the Left weakened and in disarray, the BJP is aggressively working overtime to make inroads into the state. Mission 150+ (the state assembly has a strength of 294) is how the West Bengal unit of the party describes its goal for the 2016 Assembly polls.

Currently, it does not have a single member in the House. But going by the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is the winner in as many as 21 assembly segments.

Over the next fortnight, the heaviest of BJP heavyweights are expected to be here. Arun Jaitley met the city’s intellectuals, hosted by the state BJP unit, on Sunday. Party president Amit Shah is expected to unveil his plan for West Bengal in the first week of September when he holds a workers’ meet and addresses a public rally in Kolkata.

A district wise break-up of political clashes shows that the maximum number of TMC-BJP clashes have taken place in Bankura in the first six months of 2014, totalling about 24; followed by Cooch Behar (23), Burdwan (20), South 24 Parganas (20), West Midnapore-Junglemahal (17), Hooghly (16), East Midnapore (10), Nadia (8) and Jalpaiguri (4).

These numbers run parallel with another trend: the rise in vote share of the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014 as compared to 2009. If Bankura tops the list of districts with TMC-BJP violence, there is a reason. In the Bishnpur Lok Sabha continued…

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