POST-POLL VIOLENCE IN BENGAL

The aftershocks of the high-voltage West Bengal assembly elections are beginning to be felt—and in unimaginable ways. Twelve persons were killed in the violence from rival sides and worse could follow. It’s a pity that the election frenzy has not subsided even after the results have been declared and that at a time when Covid19 is testing the resilience of the people both on the health and economic fronts.

The BJP has gone to the extent of asking for central forces to be brought to Bengal and to even apply Article 356 (President’s Rule) in order to restore law and order in the state. The ambition of the BJP to capture Bengal turned sour as it failed to grab power. However, the saffron party has emerged as the principal and only opposition in the state. Mamata Banerjee’s defeat in Nandigram is a small matter considering the resounding win of the TMC in the state. She’s beginning a third term with more confidence even while the Congress and the Left have been wiped out.

That said, the TMC chief cannot let law and order take a backseat at a point where her Party has been given another chance at governance. Maintaining law and order is integral to governance as it brings a sense of security for all, but especially for those engaged in economic activities. Bengal has a history of political violence particularly during elections. This reign of terror has got to end especially at a time when people are battling the worst form of the pandemic.

Already, the failure of the Modi government to tackle the Covid19 situation is fuelling people’s anger against his governance style. The actual number of deaths due to lack of oxygen or hospital beds are yet to be known but a safe guess is thousands have died. That a city like Delhi suffered directly under the nose of Modi is a worrisome commentary on the lack of preparedness on the part of the central government even as grim examples from the US and Europe were before us. A national lockdown might be warranted again. Sadly, the politicians who messed up with the election jamboree and discarding Covid protocols have not been held accountable for their deadly indulgences.

In the midst of all this the violence in Bengal is a slur on the country. The TMC has inherited the legacy of the Left parties in Bengal which have always indulged in strong arm tactics. The Left cadres have crossed over to the TMC and are continuing their reign of terror. Not that the BJP is an innocent bystander. Even before the polling there were incidents of violence and deaths. This is not what democracy is about. People cannot be coerced to vote a certain party under pain of death or intimidation. The Bengal violence must be contained.

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