Jury’s out on how Covid will impact Bengal outcome : The Tribune India

Saba Naqvi

Senior Journalist

One may pun that the West Bengal elections are certainly ‘super-spreaders’, unfold out as they’re over eight phases of polling. However the critical query is inevitably linked to the unfold of coronavirus and whether or not there’s a political value to be paid for the massive human gatherings which were mobilised for the polls as much as the fifth spherical of voting. Center class and media outrage have now compelled the events to state that they’re curbing the scale of the crowds (BJP), minimising the time of the marketing campaign (Trinamool Congress) or ceasing the in-person rallies altogether (Congress) and taking the marketing campaign on-line and door-to-door (CPI-M).

However for the reason that structure and pitch of this ongoing Bengal marketing campaign has been decided by the BJP, it’s value exploring how the nationwide occasion views the state of affairs within the backdrop of India breaking information in Covid infections however persisting with election mobilisation. We’re appearing in ways in which defy frequent sense: there’s a big scarcity of vaccines and the already poor well being system is damaged, but not a phrase from the authorities in opposition to the mega gathering of tens of millions on the Kumbh mela in Hardwar.

However will it matter within the electoral reckoning? In Bengal, the BJP doesn’t imagine that Covid has grow to be a problem besides in city pockets and that too in a specific part of society, from which the media can be drawn. The struggling and desperation brought on by the illness, amplified on social media, they are saying, will not be a actuality in Bengal. The BJP’s principal beneficial properties are being made within the countryside amongst a rural inhabitants voting for change the place the virus has not but unfold on an alarming scale.

Subsequently, the occasion doesn’t imagine that it’ll harm it within the ongoing state elections (though after every section of polling, well being information reveals an increase in coronavirus infections).

The BJP’s cynical calculation, due to this fact, is that ought to there be a virus surge within the hinterland, it will come as soon as the polls are over. Within the meantime, the occasion believes, that as a non-traditional participant in Bengal, it should not gradual the marketing campaign momentum in any respect. And, that’s the reason the flurry of visits of nationwide BJP leaders is not going to stop until the final day of campaigning.

If the narratives of the Covid miseries and catastrophe in BJP-ruled states haven’t penetrated the Bengal countryside, it’s as a result of it’s not a lived expertise and by the point it could be so, the elections can be over.

The BJP is counting on that, having tasted political blood. The TMC is actually and metaphorically injured with chief Mamata Banerjee soldiering on along with her leg harm. But it surely have to be acknowledged that simply as disasters don’t appear to break Narendra Modi’s picture, Mamata too stays extra well-liked than her occasion.

The Might 2 outcomes could be analysed to see if certainly the sudden surge in Covid infections impacted the BJP’s efficiency, however that is also put all the way down to completely different demographies and native dynamics within the very various state.

Essentially, regardless of the consequence, it will nonetheless be sensible to see Bengal 2021 as an Meeting election the place individuals are voting for a state regime or in opposition to it. The sturdy messaging by nationwide leaders of the BJP is designed to make the occasion seem like a possible winner as folks vote for brand spanking new forces provided that they mark a presence.

Among the assist that the BJP is getting attracts from a need for change and gathered anger with the so-called ‘syndicates’ — that’s people who get their clout from being within the construction of the TMC and extracting a value for any job to be performed. The BJP has primarily crammed within the Opposition vacuum after the TMC went about systematically decimating the previous opposition of the Left.

But, the occasion has undeniably additionally taken the election in an altogether completely different course. First, the BJP performed a really fascinating model of cultural politics in Bengal, reaching out to subaltern teams, enhancing their sense of sub-identity and promising them political clout in the event that they vote as a caste group. That is now one of many tried and examined methods within the Hindutva handbook of making a brand new citizen/voter. But it surely additionally reveals fascinating contradictions.

The final word acknowledged intention of the RSS (expressed by its overwhelmingly Brahmin management) is the utopia of a casteless society. However on the bottom, that is truly being performed via enhanced caste consciousness. The BJP/RSS methodology is fascinating in that it does give some marginalised teams a way of inclusion and objective, howsoever fleeting. The stage one of many course of can be identification assertion, stage two a way of inclusion (nonetheless imperfect and momentary) as everyone seems to be handed a banner and advised to mobilise via cries of ‘Jai Shri Ram’; after which comes stage three that entails polarising in opposition to the ‘different’ — on this case, Bengal’s very giant Muslim inhabitants.

Because the wheels of the BJP electoral machine flip, by the point this battle is misplaced or received, the state would have been polarised on communal traces as by no means earlier than since Independence. That’s the powder keg within the election, the sentiment created by narratives of supposed Muslim entitlement and appeasement, together with the acquainted tropes of cattle-smuggling, love jihad et al, in districts bordering Bangladesh.

It has not but reached the extent of persistent and settled hatreds as seen in Uttar Pradesh, however a starting in that course has definitely been made. No matter be the speed of coronavirus an infection, the contagion of communalism has definitely unfold on the fault-lines of Bengal’s historical past, partitioned twice: in 1905 and 1947.

There’s a part of the Kolkata society that argues that information of the disastrous Covid state of affairs in BJP-ruled Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh has additionally opened a entrance for anti-incumbency in opposition to the nationwide occasion. There may be, nonetheless, no convincing proof, past just a few opinions, {that a} sure ‘Covid anti-incumbency’ may very well be constructing or that there are separate forms of incumbency, divided between the Centre and the state. That will simply be the view of a bit of society in Kolkata that sees the BJP leaders as outsiders who’re wrecking every part that modern Bengal stood for. 

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