NRC: BJP’s Political Issue in Polls

Jayanta Ghosal

12 April, 2021 12:00 AM printer

In a vast country like India, polling always progresses in some of its states. Vidhan Sabha elections are held followed by by-elections. As for instance, polling is now in progress not only in West Bengal and Assam, but also  in  Kerala, Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu. Vidhan Sabha election is being held in five Indian states. During this period, holding by-polls in some constituencies of Rajasthan has become important. However, India is a neighbouring country of Bangladesh. Again two of the Indian states, I mean West Bengal and Assam, are closer to Bangladesh border. As to why, the citizens of Bangladesh are interested over elections in the two states. It is of greater relevance and significance for them. The people of Bangladesh are more interested to know about whether BJP stages a comeback to power in Assam than that of Tamil Nadu where DMK and AIADMK are vying for power. Tarun Gogoi of Congress was the chief minister of Assam. He has passed away. Will his party be able to return to power? Again, on the other side, whether BJP will be able to ascend to power by bringing an end to the decade-old rule of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal—all these issues are of utmost interest to the people of Bangladesh.

Now, I straightaway tell about something. There is a general conception. It is that of BJP’s possibility of ascending to power in West Bengal what the party did in Tripura. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP top leaders time and again mentioned about the ‘Double Engine’ theory which means operation of an engine of a single party in both the centre and the state. Then, it will be a matter of just one second for Modi to get consent of the West Bengal chief minister belonging to BJP about signing of Teesta accord. Then, the conflict between the state and the centre would cease to exist. In that case, it would be better to make the deal as soon as BJP comes to power. It will be strategically good for both India and Bangladesh. As for example, in Tripura, it has become easier to come to an understanding between India and Bangladesh in resolving issues like building a joint bridge or, establishing rail communications and undertaking power projects which get accelerated. So, Narendra Modi is trying to establish his theory. Tripura is playing a greater role in building strong trade relations with Bangladesh that West Bengal lacks. The reason is that West Bengal has always preferred to take a negative stance. That hinders on way to accelerate the trade ties of India with Bangladesh. From BJP’s point of view, it has become an election agenda in West Bengal.

In such a situation, there still remains a question: will Teesta agreement signing will be that easier once BJP comes to power? There is an opinion: it is a major political issue. For debate’s sake, if we assume that Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has emerged as the Opposition. In that case, her number of seats will not be nil. If the party becomes stronger enough and start opposing the signing of Teesta accord by playing an aggressive role then it will not be strategically good for BJP by losing public support inside the country in a bid to maintain the friendly ties with Bangladesh. Then in future it would be a long-term problem for BJP. These questions remain alive. In West Bengal, elections will be held in eight phases. Earlier, I have not seen this sort of voting. Lots of events are happening during this period. However, polls results are still uncertain.

As I am not an astrologer, it is difficult for me to predict about the polls result. But, it can be told that BJP, being an opposition party, has already occupied its place in West Bengal. Earlier, BJP had no existence there.  Congress was once the ruling party. Gradually, the left-leaning parties emerged as the Opposition. We have seen for a long time the politics of CPM versus Congress in West Bengal. Ousting Congress from power, CPM ruled the state for 34 years. After the exit of CPM, Mamata Banerjee has been ruling the state for 10 years. But, BJP has occupied the place of Congress and CPM by becoming the main Opposition. Starting from two seats, BJP has secured 200 seats in entire India. In West Bengal, BJP has consolidated its position. Presently, there are three MLAs belonging to BJP. What Mamata used to enjoy her influence in 2016, has changed a bit in 2019. The proportion of BJP’s increment in vote percentage, the party wants to maintain its continuity. But Mamata Banerjee should not be underestimated. Her vote bank-- Tapshili vote bank, Muslim vote bank, Aborigine vote bank—is not easier for BJP to break at the moment. Mobilising all might, BJP strives to oust Mamata Banerjee. Challenging this master strategy, Mamata Banerjee is out to win 294 seats. But, will she come out successful? It is not that easy for BJP to win 170 seats.

However, this year’s elections in West Bengal and Assam are the most important issues for Bangladesh. In the two states, all-India party of BJP has to tackle the citizenship bill in a different manner. In West Bengal, BJP announced much earlier that the citizenship bill would come into effect soon. As a consequence, the illegal Muslim inhabitants will have to go back to their land of birth. It is a major issue. However, BJP’s stance is to protect the Hindu refugees. During this election, BJP, in its polls manifesto, stated that this would be the first cabinet decision if the party comes to power.

Again the issue is quite different in Assam. Because, Rahul Gandhi has announced that once Congress comes to power, it would not apply this law. He thinks the minority votes to be safe for him. In Assam, there are 126 seats in the constituent assembly. Politics is totally different there. BJP has ascended to power by bringing this citizenship bill. This has resulted in an eventual defeat of Muslim and Congress alliance. The reason is that in Assam, BJP is determined to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to a great extent. In Assam polls, it has been making publicity more prominently. And Congress is telling that if they get power then it would stop it. That means Rahul Gandhi is trying to win Muslim votes by opposing the NRC. In West Bengal too, in a similar manner, Mamata Banerjee tries to woo the Muslim voters by opposing the NRC. In Assam, BJP is the ruling party while in West Bengal it is the opposition party. But, two types of situation have been created in the two states. Above all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is giving priority to the relationship with Bangladesh. It seems to him that this NRC is a major political issue inside the country. But, while implementing this, it should be noted that no situation is created which impacts adversely the Indo-Bangladesh ties. Therefore, in a word, the situation is complex enough. Anyway, we shall have to wait till May 2 to see whether BJP would return to power in Assam and whether Mamata Banerjee would be ousted from West Bengal.       


The writer is a senior journalist of India

Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman