West Bengal is not exactly new to political violence. In the 1960s, the Left and Congress workers used to have a go at each other on the streets of the state. Left goons were notorious for their high-handed ways. But Mamata Banerjee came to power promising 'poriborton' (change.) The events all through the election season, however, have proved that there is no real break from the past
The Election Commission (EC) has done the right thing, albeit a bit late. It has cut short campaigning for the remaining Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal by a day. This was the only way to minimise the damage caused by the TMC and the BJP clashes in the state.
On Tuesday, the Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar bust was damaged with both the parties accusing each other of carrying out the heinous task. In the event, the poll panel had little option but to exercise Article 324 of the Constitution, which arms it with powers of "superintendence, direction and control of elections".
The EC's actions could have come earlier itself when violence first swept the state with the TMC government willingly looking elsewhere.
The thing to note is that West Bengal is not exactly new to political violence. In the 1960s, the Left and Congress workers used to have a go at each other on the streets of the state. Left goons were notorious for their high-handed ways. But Mamata Banerjee came to power promising 'poriborton' (change.) The events all through the election season, however, have proved that there is no real break from the past.
The campaign to the seven phases of polls in West Bengal has established that chief minister Mamata, who has a lot riding on this election, does not brook any opposition to her ways and has scant regard for the institutions like the Election Commission.
Worse, carrying her irresponsible brinkmanship to unacceptable limits, she does not seem to mind taking on the Supreme Court as the release of BJP Youth Wing Leader Priyanka Sharma was delayed. The court had to make known its displeasure and threatened to slap contempt proceedings.
Anyone with a different view from hers or the party is being treated as the persona non grata of the state. Mamata has hardly given any space to the opposition parties, be it the BJP or the CPM, all parties have faced her party's and government's wrath and might. This is totally unacceptable in a democracy.
The real worry is that Mamata and her government are setting a bad precedent. This will embolden intransigent and recalcitrant state governments to take on the Centre and the governmental institutions in a spirit of uncompromising confrontation. This does not augur well for the nation. The success of federal structure hinges on the Centre and the state approaching each other with a sense of accommodation and amiability.
The violence in West Bengal does not absolve other parties, too. The Congress and the Left are responsible for creating the culture of street-fighting in the first place. The BJP can be accused of matching the TMC in a rough and tough manner. The fact is all parties have contributed and entrenched the culture of political violence in West Bengal.
But the biggest share of blame should be laid at the doors of the TMC which is in charge of the State. And Mamata and her team have to be reigned in before further damage is caused to the State and the federal spirit of governance.
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Last Updated May 16, 2019, 4:13 PM IST