Updated: April 1, 2021 8:52:49 am
With each rally, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is pulling down the political discourse in the state. In her speeches, she has been spending considerable time targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership with inappropriate remarks and indecent jibes. Banerjee is running an ugly campaign and consciously diverting attention from governance and other issues.
The election campaign in West Bengal reached a new low when CM Mamata Banerjee referred to the Prime Minister as “Khooni ka raja” (King of murderers). In her campaign speeches, Didi has referred to BJP leaders as Dushasan, Duryodhan, Mir Jafar, and rakshas (demon). These are just some of the many indecent remarks that she has made in the last few weeks. Banerjee hasn’t even spared the Election Commission of India (ECI) and central armed forces. In fact, these institutions have been subjected to endless abuse for merely performing their duties and preventing illegitimate actions by her party cadre.
There is a stark difference between the election speeches of the West Bengal CM and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The prime minister maintains dignity while campaigning and shows respect for his political opponents. Whenever he criticises them, he ensures that it is only about their conduct as public leaders or on issues of governance.
When incumbents campaign in elections, they are expected to present a report card of their performance. However, in this campaign, CM Banerjee has been silent about her government’s work in the past 10 years. Banerjee rarely speaks about her government’s achievements or the promises fulfilled by it in the last decade. Instead, she resorts to frequent whataboutery. Any question about her governance record or the state of affairs in West Bengal provokes a counter question: “But, what about Uttar Pradesh?” I am hopeful that mainstream media will eventually notice this and remind her that elections in UP are scheduled for next year. But I do understand her reluctance. With such dismal government performance, any sitting CM would feel helpless and find it hard to list out achievements.
Contrast this with PM Modi and other BJP leaders who never hesitate in talking about the Centre’s performance or the work done in BJP-ruled states. This is because we are confident about the impact of the work of our governments. We strongly believe that elections are an opportunity for voters to critically evaluate their government’s performance and decide whether to reaffirm their support. Mamata Banerjee is not fulfilling her obligation towards voters by refraining from talking about her government’s performance.
Why is the West Bengal CM making such remarks and deliberately avoiding talking about her performance? Her bitter remarks indicate frustration as she is seeing the writing on the wall. A senior politician like Mamata Banerjee can’t miss the vocal anger against her government and strong desire for change in West Bengal. Actually, Didi knows that she can’t compete with the BJP on governance. Her alternate strategy is consciously trying to divert the election narrative through outrageous remarks and deliberately lowering the political discourse. We realise that this is a last-ditch effort by a CM who is on her way out of office. Rather than engaging in a verbal duel and countering her personal remarks, our leadership remains committed and focused on taking our message of “Ashol Poriborton” to voters across the state.
It is disappointing to see the media’s silence on the TMC’s ugly election campaign. Most of them are yet to criticise CM Banerjee for lowering the standards of the election discourse and making deplorable remarks against the BJP leadership. As the election progresses and defeat looms, CM Banerjee is unlikely to change her strategy of name-calling and bitter personal remarks. In fact, she might double down on this strategy and further lower the political discourse. Irrespective of what other parties do or how they campaign, the BJP remains committed to raising issues of public concern, asking pertinent questions, and giving voters a campaign that kindles hope for a better future.
This article first appeared in the print edition on April 1, 2021 under the title ‘A coarse campaign’. The writer is BJP General Secretary and in-charge West Bengal
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