For the BJP, the violence in Malda presents it with an unexpected opportunity. Unsure of itself in West Bengal after the 2014 Lok Sabha Modi wave in the state, this is a perfect opportunity for the party to showcase what it is best at: Hindutva politics. So far, the BJP has been treading cautiously in WB. However, the central leadership’s recent decision to appoint Dilip Ghosh, an RSS man, as state party chief indicated that the party would try to consolidate the Hindu vote. BJP leaders prefer to call its strategy “soft Hindutva”.
The party is also likely to use Subhash Chandra Bose as one of its most prominent icons during the run-up to the state polls later this year, something it has been working on for some time. What triggered the week long tensions in Malda was a meeting of a large mob, which torched almost dozen vehicles and the police station in Kaliachak. The rally was organized by an extreme group, the Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamaat (AASJ) to protest against the alleged remarks by Kamalesh Tiwari, a Hindu Mahasabha activist in Uttar Pradesh. He had made the remark on December 1 and the protests were held on January 3. A Hindu priest was allegedly injured in the violence.
The Malda incident has thus developed communal overtones. The BJP had to play up the issue because of its vote base and sensed that this could have a major impact on the state. It expressed shock at the way the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has defended the culprits of the violence. Then, party chief Amit Shah sent a three-member fact-finding team to the area and although they were not allowed to visit Kaliachak, the party hopes that it can mobilize the Hindu vote in Malda and the neighbouring districts. This could also have repercussions in other districts, at least among the Hindu community which would see the BJP as the party that protects their interests.
Now, the party is all set to approach President Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking a probe into the recent violence. BJP Secretary Sidharth Nath Singh has also alleged that the purpose behind the violent attack on the police station was to destroy records allegedly related to a fake currency racket. Singh also said Malda was a major hub for fake currency and opium smuggling and the Trinamool Congress government had taken no action due to vote bank politics. “80 per cent of fake currency passes through Malda. Opium is produced there and smuggled to Bangladesh. Who do you want to save?” he asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
For the moment, the battle lines are firmly drawn between the TMC and the BJP.
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