Enemy's enemy is my friend: BJP, CPI-M target Mamata
On the eve of the May 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections, Arun Jaitley shared his campaign experiences with some editors. When he attacked Mamata Bannerjee and the Left-Congress front in equal measure, the crowd's response was tepid. When he attacked the Trinamool for 60 percent of his speech, there was some applause. But when his speech was 75 percent invective against the Trinamool, the applause was thunderous.
The editor who passed on these "findings" to me was then a key figure in the Kolkata establishment. He was amplifying something he liked to believe. So opposed to Mamata was he that he claimed some credit for helping stitch together what was patently an absurd arrangement: The Congress and the CPI-M would hold hands in Bengal, but fight each other in Kerala. They were trounced.
Jaitley's unflattering report about Mamata's electoral fortunes can be easily explained. His meetings, obviously organised by RSS cadres, consisted of crowds who were presumably anti-Mamata. His narrative also revealed that, in charting out a future in Bengal, the BJP saw Mamata as a much more formidable obstacle than the Congress-Left combine.
That outcome is precisely what the BJP is up against, now that Amit Shah is preparing the turf for the 2019 elections. In this framework, how does the communal violence following Basirhat play itself out? First, it must be registered that there have been a dozen or so clashes in the state after Mamata's re-election. It must be said to the credit of the CPI-M's 36-year rule: Communal riots were almost non-existent. Some of what is happening now is clearly part of the BJP's effort to create an atmosphere conducive to communal polarisation.