There is/was a hullabaloo among them who believe or rather portray her as more left than CPIM(Communist Party Of India – Marxist ) itself about Mamta Banerjee’s comment that all in RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha) are “not bad.” Is there anything to be shocked about? Mamata Banerjee became CM after the massive mandate of the 2011 assembly election. Thus ending the 34 years left rule in Bengal. If anyone goes through the statistics the minority vote bank played a decisive role in her winnings of all her electoral victories. A new avatar of Mamata Banerjee with a hijab in an iftar party drew attention to the economically and politically backwards Bengali Muslim communities. She began to be hailed as Apa(elder sister.)
Bengal and Punjab are the main two states which were ripped apart by the merciless scissor of the colonial, white ruler’s Redcliffe Line. Bengal witnessed an influx of millions(who suddenly became refugees in their own land) of refugees who have a traumatic history of leaving a country with wounded hearts. If we measure the thirty-four years of CPIM led Left Front rule’s success in west Bengal, then it will be a great injustice if we don’t acknowledge that it gave west Bengal a progressive state based on the politics of class and not on religion and caste. They never teased the old wound of the partition. They were successful in containing the majority communalism as well as minority communal elements. Thanks to Operation Barga, 53.2% families benefiting from land reform in India are from West Bengal.
During the Babri Masjid demolition and the country-wide riots that followed it, the then CPIM led left front government succeeded in maintaining law and order in West Bengal.
But under Mamata Banerjee’s rule RSS has gained a strong platform in West Bengal. As The Print reports, the RSS which has been trying to find a foothold in Bengal since 1939, found a strong ground only from 2009 onwards. The year 2020 recorded the highest numbers of RSS shakhas in West Bengal – 1600.
This proves the CPIM led Left Front government didn’t let RSS, the ideological backbone of BJP to thrive in Bengal. At the fag end of their 34 years term, the anti-incumbency factors, the inclusion of some mafia leaders and the rise of Mamata Banerjee who was earlier with NDA government prompted the thirty four years rule to collapse in Bengal.
With Mamata Banerjee, the political discourse of Bengal changed contour and essence. Wiping out the class – based politics of Bengal, she brought in the religion – based narrative which was hitherto dormant in Bengal. No one demanded, but she suddenly announced imam bhata(an honorarium for the Imams) . And began to organise the iftar party in every block, quite different from the scenarios of the left regime which never promoted any religious populist bipartisanship only to get political mileage. Around 2014 BJP was already on the rise and Narendra Modi was storming into power in the centre. The Hindu Nationalist feeling was gaining more hold. It was not the exception in Bengal too. The collapse of the CPIM due to organisational weakness and muscle – based politics of Trinamool Congress gave the BJP an open field in Bengal. The increasing strength of RSS who began to grow in the fag end of left regime found an escalation of different level in Mamata regime. All these factors provided BJP the right ground to breed in. In between Mamata Banerjee’s aim to consolidate the Muslim votes in favour of her became a true success.
In 1998, the CPIM led Left Front government formed the School Service Commission to recruit teachers in government-aided schools and Madrasas. Every year there was a systematic, fair, merit – based recruitment drive. And a large number of job aspirants from the lower middle class, middle class and poor families got jobs. If one notices, she will see now a rising number of Muslim paras(areas) around every district city. This rising of the Muslim middle class is largely due to the free and fair recruitment system of the West Bengal School Service Commission in the CPIM led left regime. After her coming into power in 2011, she discontinued the process only to tamper with the transparency. Thanks to her adaptation of cow belt politics of money and muscle. The CBI raids and crores of scum in which the former education minister is in jail now stand in support of her party in neck deep corruption. She has loompanised the Bhadralok politics of Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee and her party which always claim to be the messiah of the Muslim minorities have done nothing in substance for the upliftment of the whole community. The condition of the government-aided Madrasas are deplorable. In her eleven years of rule, only twice( of which one examination took place in the Left Front rule, but recruitment happened in 2011) and another recruitment in Madrasas under West Bengal Madrasas Service Commission took place in 2018(for which the process began in 2014). The government-aided Madrasas are suffering due to a lack of teachers. If she has to empower the Bengali Muslim community, she should have empowered the Madrasas in which a large number of students belong from the poorest strata of the Muslim community depend. Around six lakh students both Hindu and Muslims depend on these Madrasas.
Her drum beating and pseudo – sympathy for the Muslim community created space for the Bharatiya Janata Party. They began to polarise Bengalis by using the identity politics of Mamata Banerjee. The parties gained from this religious polarization. Mamata Banerjee consolidated Muslim votes by bringing the BJP spectre into the politics of West Bengal. And she reduced the last assembly election largely on two party games. When BJP’s aggressive campaign became more polarised, she herself began to toe the soft – Hindutva line. She knew well as BJP has come into the play, so no need to woo Muslim votes further. Muslim, the milking cows will vote for her by default. Her party released a report card of the development of her ten years rule before the 2021 assembly election, but there was a conspicuous absence of data on the minority development. Either She took the Muslims so granted that she didn’t bother to publish data on the minority development or she didn’t have anything to show as no development happened.
So there is no wonder that Mamata is eulogizing RSS. She has done what no other chief minister has done in Bengal. During her regime, RSS’s organisational strength has increased significantly. If RSS’s concern is to spread its ideology, then Mamata Banerjee has let it happen very smoothly. Mamata Banerjee who was an ally of the NDA government can be a political opponent of the BJP but when it comes to Ideology, she fails to be an ideological opponent of the BJP.
Moumita Alam is a poet from West Bengal. Her poetry collection The Musings of the Dark is available on Amazon