‘India’s soul at stake’: West Bengalis vote in divisive elections | India

IA sleepy, swampy area around Nandigram, West Bengal, where mango and coconut trees grow in abundance, bicycles with green algae sinking into dusty streets and ponds, a vicious political activity is spreading.

West Bengal, India’s most populous state, will go to the polls on Saturday to elect its state government. However, the importance of the referendum extends far beyond the borders of the state. “Not only Bengal but also the spirit of India is at stake,” said Malai Tewari, a Bengali social activist.

For the past decade, the state, known for its resistance to Delhi’s politics, has been ruled by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), a regional party headed by Mamata Banerjee, one of India’s most difficult and famous female leaders. Of She was at the forefront of overthrowing more than three decades of communist rule in the state, and is still known as an outspoken politician, especially against the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. The TMC has pursued a progressive development agenda, but has also struggled with allegations of corruption and fraud.

Now, first and foremost for West Bengal, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come a long way and there is a legitimate opportunity to form a state government in May. The victory of the state will be a huge uprising for the party, which will give Modi a powerful advantage in the upper house of parliament and run in the next general elections in 2024.

Mamata Banerjee, in a wheelchair, is leading a campaign march in Kolkata.
Mamata Banerjee, in a wheelchair, is leading a campaign march in Kolkata. Photography: Deepa Chakraborty / Pacific Press / Rex / Shutterstock

For those who see Bengal as one of the last strongholds against the BJP’s polarizing politics, however, the possibility of the party controlling the state government has provoked strong opposition.

If the BJP comes to power, they will destroy the heritage of Bengal and they will destroy the unique culture of Bengal. They will put an end to all this and Muslims will take the first blow, “said Tiwari, who co-founded a new party citizens’ movement in West Bengal with the sole aim of” no vote for the BJP “.

The Hindu nationalist BJP, which has been in power since 2014, has been accused of bringing sectarian politics to Bengal and pushing communities along Hindu-Muslim lines.

Javed Ahmed Khan, one of the most senior TMC ministers, told his Kolkata office, “The BJP is anxious to win Bengal because it will give them great power.” Mamata Banerjee is one of the only political leaders to support the BJP. They want him to leave.

Modi has held at least four rallies across the state in the past one week and was in neighboring Bangladesh on Friday, part of which was triggered by the West Bengal elections. However, the Prime Minister met with violent clashes, including with Bangladeshi protesters, who had treated Muslims in India. In the capital Dhaka, police killed four demonstrators.

Polling staff inspect electronic voting machines and papers in Madinipur
Polling staff inspect electronic voting machines and papers in Madinipur. Photograph: Bekas Das / AP

The BJP’s growing popularity in Bengal was reflected in the 2019 general elections, when it garnered 40% of the vote. But without a legacy at the state level, Khan said the BJP has “nothing to fight here, except religion and money power, so they are fomenting sectarian divisions among voters”.

It has not been able to do much more than Nandigram. This southern district of Bengal became a ground zero for the electoral battle between the two parties when Banerjee’s forerunner and close ally, Suwandu Adhikari, switched from the TMC to the BJP in December. Banerjee then changed his constituency to Nandigram and the two will now head the seat.

Decline becomes a sign of c. How many political challenges does the BJP represent in Bengal? Shortly afterwards, Adhikari’s political rhetoric, which was popular among both Hindus and Muslims as a TMC politician, began to change dramatically.

He addressed only the majority Hindu electorate at the rallies, citing Banerjee – an upper caste Hindu known for his religious secularism. Aunt or “فوفو “This is a reference to illegal Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. It has also accused it of being in favor of Muslims and working against the interests of Hindus.” For whom Jai Sri Ram He cited a Hindu religious slogan as a key invitation.

Suwando officials address a BJP rally in Kolkata
Suwando officials address a BJP rally in Kolkata. Photography: Deepa Chakraborty / Pacific Press / REX / Shutterstock

Rokia Bibi, 50, said that while Suwando was always known for her secular style, she was an eye-opener for both Hindus and Muslims in Nandigram. He said that it was a great betrayal of all the Muslims who supported him for years by chanting these religious slogans. It has divided our community along religious lines like never before.

Abu Tahir, a Muslim TMC leader in Nandigram, said he had a close friendship with Adhikari since he was a student and “he was never a sectarian. He used to come to my house every Eid and say Muslims and Hindus used to be brothers, but now they are using these divisions to get votes.

SK Sufyan, TMC coordinator in Nandigram, was even more serious that the BJP’s statements were taking Bengal to the brink of religious anarchy. “If the BJP comes to power, Hindus will have to face Muslims and rivers of blood will flow,” he said.

Bata Krishna Das, BJP coordinator in Nandigram, insisted that his party was more secular than the TMC because Banerjee had “done everything to please Muslims”.

He said that he has given grants to imams and has given Islamic salutations in his speeches while Hindus have been barred from celebrating. درگا پوجاDas quoted a Hindu festival. “There are Muslims who support the BJP, but they cannot do so in public because they are afraid of other Muslims who are extremely violent and terrorist by nature.”

Not everyone who intends to vote for the BJP in Bengal has said that they intend to do so for sectarian reasons. But Shab Prasad Shi, a 41-year-old mechanical engineer from Gopalpur in Nandigram, was among several BJP supporters and said he feared that “with Mamata’s help, Muslims are going to make West Bengal another Bangladesh.” ۔ But if the BJP comes to power, West Bengal is safe.

Gautam Shi, another BJP supporter from Gopalpur, agreed. “Many Hindu voters have joined the BJP because we are threatened by the rapidly growing Muslim population.”

Several Muslims in West Bengal spoke out against the possibility of a BJP rule. The party’s manifesto for the state promises that it will be the first to decide on the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed by the Modi government that covers all religions except Islam. Offers citizenship to refugees and is widely seen as discriminating against Muslims.

In Talinipura, a small town in West Bengal, fear was evident. Here, in May, BJP supporters rioted against Muslim residents, hurling petrol bombs and deporting homes. It was one of the worst religious riots in Bengal in years, destroying dozens of houses. Thousands of Muslim activists have fled the area.

“The BJP has carried out horrific violence here when it was not even in power, so think what would happen if it were a government,” said Shahnaz Khatun, a 22-year-old political science graduate whose house was on fire during the riots.

Many Hindus in Bengal were offended by the tone of the election campaign. 24 Arv Arvind Sharma said, “They are trying to use religion to garner votes in Hindu majority society but it will not work here.” We do not support what the BJP is doing in Bengal, religion should not come into politics. “

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