Updated: May 14, 2021 8:29:02 am
The Union Home Ministry’s decision to have commandos from central agencies such as the CRPF and CISF guard the 77 BJP MLAs in West Bengal — a blanket cover to all elected members of a single party in a state — sends out disturbing signals. The decision, ostensibly taking into cognisance a report prepared by central security agencies and inputs of a high-level fact-finding team of officers sent to the state by the ministry in the wake of post-poll violence, undermines the spirit of a federal constitutional framework. Law and order is a state subject. There is a newly elected government in West Bengal and the state police is duty-bound to protect all citizens, including the Opposition MLAs. The Centre’s unilateral move, with no case-by-case assessment of security threat, and without taking the state’s consent, is clearly meant as a show of the Centre’s might, and a provocation directed against a government led by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, which has just won a resounding mandate after fending off the BJP’s challenge. Even as the post-poll violence shows that Bengal’s new government has work to do in securing the peace for all, including and especially for the TMC’s political opponents, the Centre’s move points to a BJP unwilling to fully respect the people’s verdict.
In this West Bengal election, the BJP campaign was led by the Prime Minister and included prominent Union ministers. The grand mobilisation framed a clash of personalities — the battle for Bengal morphed into a Narendra Modi versus Mamata Banerjee fight, and the cadres took their cue, turning it into a do-or-die confrontation on the streets. Now that elections are over, both parties should sober down and let the rhythms of governance take over. To begin with, the onus is on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to ensure that law and order is restored and that the state police follows the rulebook and acts impartially. Her government needs to probe the violence that followed the results — at least 14 people were killed — and act against perpetrators, irrespective of their political affiliation.
But the Centre also has its task cut out for it. Amid a public health emergency, it must engage with the West Bengal government, and lend it a hand. This is the time for the Centre and state to fight together against the virus. There is no time to be churlish or show down a political opponent.
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