Joyprakash Majumdar, vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) West Bengal unit, is one of the most respected politicians in the State. A former Congress leader who joined the BJP in 2014, Majumdar has been in active politics for the last 35 years. He is in charge of the BJP’s political analysis department and is the chief coordinator of the BJP Legislative Party. In an exclusive interview with Frontline, he talked about the decline of the Trinamool and the BJP’s programme in the days to come. “Every day Mamata Banerjee is getting deeper and deeper into the quicksand. The more she tries to come out of it, the more she gets sucked in,” he said. Excerpts:
I will answer that question in two parts—first the diagnosis, and then the prescription. Right now the Trinamool is suffering from multi-organ failure. For almost one and a half months during the election, lawyers were on strike—from magisterial courts to the High Court, all remained shut. Crores of people were denied legal representation. Such a thing has not happened anywhere in the country, except in Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal. Soon after the election came the doctors’ strike, which could easily have been resolved in two days, but her aggressive way of handling matters made the situation worse. After that, the teachers’ agitation. Against the backdrop of all this, law and order in Bengal has collapsed. Added to that is a major economic crisis that the State is going through. West Bengal is in a debt trap. It owes around Rs.5,00,000 crore. There is no industry, no employment, only violence and sale of alcohol.
Bengali culture itself has suffered over the years. Under the Communists, Bengali nationalism gave way to internationalism. The 34 years of CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] rule destroyed Bengali culture, and when Mamata Banerjee came to power, she hammered the last nails into its coffin with her use of language and her poetry, which is now being taught in schools in the State. She made the entire educational system a slave to her party. But history has shown that such things can take place only up to a point, after that there is a turnaround. In Bengal, that turnaround period has finally come. Bengal, in its untenable present, is now digging deep into its forgotten past to progress to a future that has so far eluded it.
Now the BJP has come to the fore. It has secured two crore 30 lakh votes; it has a lead in at least 121 Assembly segments, and in around 30 seats the difference between the winning Trinamool candidate and the BJP is very small. To use a football analogy, the BJP has been granted a penalty against the Trinamool that will decide the fate of the match. Unless we make a suicidal mistake, nothing can stop us from coming to power.
Now the second part of my answer—the prescription. The biggest problem in Bengal today is law and order. One of the main requirements of democracy is peace, and in that ambience of peace, people should be allowed to exercise their democratic rights unhindered. Our first priority is bringing safety, security and peace to Bengal. Once that happens, all other problems will be very easy to deal with. With peace there will be industrialisation, and automatically the economy will be back in shape, and progress is bound to take place. Our primary target will be to enforce proper law and order, ensure that the administration is neutral and effective. People in Bengal are always willing to give a political power time to bring about change.
Moreover, West Bengal has not had the opportunity in decades to have a State government [run by a party] which is also in power at the Centre. This clash of interests between the Centre and the State that has been going on for so long has cost the people of Bengal dearly. It is now time for harmony. Mamata Banerjee has been refusing to attend the meetings called at the Centre; we ask, who is she to deny the people of the State their right to progress and prosperity and disassociate 9.5 crore people of the State from the vision shared by the rest of the country?
The violence has not been there only for the past one month. It has been there from before the panchayat election of 2018. From the nomination stage of the rural election until after the results were declared, more than 100 people lost their lives. An 18-year-old boy, Trilochan Mahato, was killed and left hanging from a tree in Purulia for being a BJP supporter. The reason for his murder was scrawled on his vest. None of the intellectuals uttered a word condemning the crime. Can you imagine something like this happening in any civilised society? Do you recall what the Chief Minister said in an election rally when she realised that she was losing her ground? She said “inchi tey inchi tey badla nebo” [I will extract vengeance inch by inch]. Can a Chief Minister under the oath of the Constitution say something like that? Who will she take revenge on? But that is her way. It is as if she is still a firebrand opposition leader.
Who other than the Chief Minister can bring it under control? There is a reason why Babasaheb Ambedkar put Article 356 in the Constitution. It is not just a decorative piece.
He felt that a lawfully elected government may become tyrannical and fail to provide safety and security to its own people. But owing to the Congress’ repeated abuse of Article 356, the Supreme Court had to issue certain strictures, and as a result, Article 356 has become an ornamental provision. Otherwise, West Bengal is the fittest case for the implementation of Article 356 today because common people have no safety and security for their life and property.
Mamata Banerjee may be trying to force President’s rule in the hope of getting some sympathy. But I do not think either the State BJP or the Central leadership will be willing to give her that benefit. We have absolutely no interest in coming to power through such back-door means. We are already in a winning situation. If an election is held tomorrow, the BJP will win. But, unfortunately, until that happens, the innocent people of Bengal will continue to suffer for another two years.
Mamata Banerjee is making things worse for herself. Every day she is getting deeper and deeper into the quicksand. The more she tries to come out of it, the more she gets sucked in.
Meanwhile, we will leave no stone unturned to expose her anti-democratic ways of functioning and her anti-people actions. On each and every issue, the BJP will be hitting the streets in West Bengal. Even though her fall is imminent, we will continue to pile on the pressure.
There will be opportunists, but there will also be good people with good track records who will be willing to join us for the betterment of Bengal. I think the BJP will have to be extremely careful while expanding its base. Mamata Banerjee also expanded her base by accepting people from all political parties, but the only cementing factor in the Trinamool is power, since there is no ideology. The moment it is out of power, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards. But the BJP stands on a very strong foundation, and whether it remains in power or not, its basic structure will remain because of its ideology. The first task of the BJP is to make sure that those joining are indoctrinated into the ideology.
We won in Uttar Malda, which has a Muslim majority. Without Muslim votes, we would not have been able to win. We came very close to winning in Dakshin Malda as well, which has an even greater Muslim population. In Bengal, there are two kinds of Muslims—Bengali Muslims and Urdu-speaking Muslims. Bengali Muslims were originally Hindus before they were converted. They are peace-loving, and everything about them—their way of living, etc.—is like a Bengali Hindu.
Bengali Muslims constitute 70 per cent of the total Muslim population in the State [roughly 30 per cent of the population]. They will not shy away from voting for the BJP when they realise that it will be to their ultimate benefit. A sizeable portion of Muslim votes has already come to the BJP, and in the coming elections this will only increase.