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West Bengal: What’s behind BJP’s communal narrative on post-polls violence?

  • Published at 02:44 pm May 7th, 2021
West Bengal State Election India
A paramilitary personnel stands guard as people wait to cast their votes at a polling station during the state legislative elections, at South 24 Parganas district, about 70 km from Kolkata on April 6, 2021 AFP

At least 21 people have been killed across the state in political clashes since the election results were declared on Sunday

As Trinamool Congress swept West Bengal by winning 213 of the 292 seats, the largest-ever verdict in history, reports of widespread violence started coming in from various parts of the state. 

According to the latest reports, at least 21 people have been killed across the state in political clashes since the election results were declared on Sunday. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed that nine of their supporters have been killed in the clashes. On the other hand, Trinamool says eight of their workers died. 

The Indian Union home ministry on Thursday formed a four-member team to inquire into reports of post-poll violence in West Bengal, PTI reported, quoting officials. 

It comes after the ministry on Wednesday wrote for the second time in three days to the West Bengal government, seeking a report on post-poll violence in the state, according to a report by the Indian Express. 

‘Communal’ narrative

Meanwhile, the BJP leaders, supporters and its ‘IT Cell’ took to social media to highlight the violence against its supporters. In its posts, the party described the violence as communal, perpetrated by Muslims on Hindus.

Prominent BJP leaders and personalities have asked for everything from the imposition of president’s rule in the state to the deployment of central paramilitary forces.

BJP President JP Naddaon Thursday alleged that murderous attacks were taking place against his party’s workers. He claimed rapes were happening in West Bengal and people in thousands were fleeing to save their lives.

Nadda also condemned the attack on the convoy of Union minister V Muraleedharan in West Bengal on Thursday, stating that "TMC-sponsored" violence was at its extreme post the announcement of results, Times Now reported.

Swapan Dasgupta, who contested and lost from Tarakeshwar, tweeted about “more than a thousand Hindu families'' hiding from “marauding mobs.” He also claimed there were “reports of molestation or worse of women,” reports The Wire. 

Senior journalist Abhijit Majumder has also amplified the communal angle, and tweeted, “Jihadis celebrating Holi with blood being played in Bengal. ‘Secular,’ ‘liberal’ worthies, I wish these Adils reach your homes some day.”

Widespread misinformation and fake news

Amid reports of widespread violence across the state, A journalist took to social media to point out that he was falsely identified as a BJP supporter who died in post-poll violence, The Wire reports. 

The West Bengal BJP on Wednesday posted a video of violence along with a photo of India Today journalist Abhro Banarjee claiming him to be a BJP supporter who was killed in Sitalkuchi. 

A video has been circulating heavily on social media showing TMC’s post-result celebrations, where a group of people were dancing and brandishing swords while TMC’s “Khela Hobe” campaign songs were playing in the background. CID West Bengal later claimed the video fake and strictly warned against the spread of fake news. 

The crusading fake news buster, AltNews, and news portals like The Quint have already revealed that a large number of ‘news’ reports of violence that were gulped down by the national media were patently false. 

‘Diversionary tactics’

Journalists and political analysts in India see BJP’s intense social media campaign surrounding West Bengal as a bigger calculated strategy.

According to a senior journalist Jayanta Ghoshal, BJP’s pro-active role in highlighting violence in Bengal was the party’s 2024 Lok Sabha election plan. 

According to Ghosal, the BJP was trying to bar the possibility of a Mamata-led coalition of opposition taking on them in 2024 by ensuring the loss of her credibility among other opposition leaders. 

“The debacle that Modi’s leadership and authority have faced in the (Bengal) election results has made the 2024 elections all the more important to him,” Ghosal wrote in a Facebook post.

Many political experts believe BJP’s role in post-poll violence in West Bengal state as a “diversionary tactics.”

They argued that BJP leaders are trying to divert the country’s attention from the party’s electoral defeats in the past couple of weeks along with the central government’s Covid-19 mismanagement. 

A prominent political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay told Outlook India: “The BJP is fearing for its future at the national level and is trying to divert public attention from issues troubling them.”

“Besides, the BJP is failing to digest that the people of Bengal rejected their Hindu polarization plan. Therefore, they are giving a communal twist to their campaign to tell the Hindus of the state that they made a blunder by not voting on communal lines,” he added.

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