Ominous portents

West Bengal is heading for Panchayat elections next year. These will be followed by general elections the following year, 2019. With the Congress and the Left gradually losing their support base and organizational strength, it is the BJP which is emerging as the principal opposition party in West Bengal. TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee’s uncompromising attitude to the BJP is well known. She has virtually become the face of the Opposition at the national level. Clashes between supporters of TMC and BJP are daily taking place, mostly in the districts. Each is accusing the other of physical attacks.  BJP president Amit Shah is currently on a tour of West Bengal. The leaders and workers of his party reported to him details of the attacks the TMC allegedly had made on them. If newspaper reports are anything to go by, the national president of the party allegedly asked his workers not to tell him sob stories but to pay the TMC back in their own coin.
As the head of the party ruling the country, it would have been fair for him to appeal to all political parties to eschew violence and maintain peace so that elections are held peacefully and the voters do not shy away from the poll booths for fear of violence. That he has not done so but urged the party workers to counter muscle power with muscle power and force with force is a matter of regret. Political parties functioning within the framework of parliamentary democracy should discourage violence in every possible way and criticize any attempt at terrorizing the voters with violence. But Shah’s obiter dictum to his foot soldiers may well set the stage for clashes between two ruling parties – one in the State and the other at the Centre.
In the prevailing situation a great responsibility devolves on civil society to organize itself and prevent anyone from taking recourse to violence on any pretext or provocation. Unfortunately, the temptation to resort to muscle power is there among all the political parties. The violence that workers of the CPM and its associate parties indulged in on Tuesday at difference places in the State on the pretext of submitting a memorandum to the authorities was totally unnecessary and uncalled for. If the considerably weak Left can still create trouble one shudders to think what will be the ground situation on polling days when the two major political parties call up their reservists and confront one another with full force. It is only the voter who has to fend for himself will be chary of exercising his franchise.

Tuesday, 12 September, 2017