By Tirthankar Mitra
Communal clashes during passage of Ram Navami processions at Kazipara in Howrah followed by another flare up at Rishra in Hooghly has the Trinamool Congress leadership worried about its minority support base. These conflagrations could not come at a worse point as they erupted in the wake of the shock defeat in the Sagardighi by-poll of the nominee of the state’s ruling dispensation.
In all fairness, the Trinamool state government has not taken an ostrich like attitude. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has sent out a stern message to the rioters and asked the state police to act with alacrity Observers also feel that if a group is determined to create disturbances, it is may be a difficult task to deal with that but the police have to be prepared fully.
But there lies the nucleus of the twin troubles. The state administration of which the police is an integral part has come out in a poor light over the tackling of the clashes at both Kazipara and 35 kilometres away from it, Rishra.
There was a marked lack of tip offs emanating from failure of intelligence network. Inability of the men in uniform to zero in on the trouble spots, arrest mischief makers and prevent subsequent clashes has come to the fore.
The chief minister has admitted in so .any words the lapses of the police. But it has dented her image of an able administrator as the police department happens to be one of her portfolios.
The incidents have occurred at a time when Trinamool Congress has stepped up its minority outreach after the Sagardighi defeat. The Trinamool leadership is worried that an idea may gain currency among the minority community voters that the ruling dispensation has not done enough for the safety of their hearth and home.
Chief Minister Banerjee has blamed BJP as instigator in both the incidents. But some of the senior leaders of her party have pointed out the gap between the words of their party supremo and the actions of the police leave much to be desired among the minority community.
In a way, Banerjee’s words have lent credence to this line of thinking. Some in the police force are in touch with BJP, she has regretted.
After a sweeping electoral triumph in 2021, the TMC is in an inevitable situation. While the BJP leadership is out wooing the majority community many of whom have voted against it, the police failure to prevent the recurrence of troubles has certainly planted doubts in the minds of a sizeable section of the minority voters of the ruling party’s sincerity in protecting it.
In the 2021 Assembly elections Trinamool candidates won in minority dominated constituencies which had once been bastions of the Left and the Congress. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in which the BJP won in 18 constituencies, minority votes had been one of the mainstays of the Trinamool Congress.
But recent incidents have snowballed to such a point that the apprehension of minority votes slipping away from the ruling party cannot be ruled out. A dip in the minority votes can be a knockout punch for the Trinamool which is already unsteady on its feet after the blows to its image over the corruption charges and some of its senior leaders allegedly involved in it behind the bars.
Worries have mounted among the TMC leadership following reports that some of the minority community members feel that they were not visited by communal clashes during the Left Front regime. Kazipara was in the news for the wrong reasons last year owing to a communal flare up almost at this point of time.
Signs are indeed ominous for the TMC as a peace march was taken out by the CPI(M) leadership then. Though local Trinamool leaders visited the spot the senior leaders were conspicuous by their absence.
A hostile reception awaited cooperation minister Arup Roy when he visited the scene of violence in Howrah recently. The Trinamool leadership is desperately seeking a course of action to stop their party’s electoral fortunes rolling downhill.
The Trinamool leadership knows too well how a ruling dispensation can run into a slippery ground by stray incidents. Rizwanur Rehman’s death under mysterious circumstances followed by death of minority community members in a firing at Nandigram hastening the end of the 34 year long Left Front regime are cases in point.
The Trinamool leadership have little option but to sit up and take notice. Though only a legislator of the Indian Secular Front and another from the Congress are sitting in the Opposition benches in the state Assembly, the communal clashes seem to have swelled the ranks of the TMC’s political opponents.
Both the BJP and the Left Congress combine have spotted a chink in the ruling party’s support base. And they have hit the ground running to widen the fissures into cracks.
While the BJP is alleging that the ruling dispensation has concern only for one community, the Left and Congress leaders are alleging that TMC’s efforts to protect the minority community is half hearted. Ideologically divergent, the Opposition is sparing no effort to turn TMC support base into unstable ground.
The possibility of the minority community voters shifting their allegiance is one of the prime concerns of the ruling party. For this community have often voted en bloc for the TMC enduring the continuance of its regime.
The panchayat elections are round the corner and the Lok Sabha polls are due next year. A sticky wicket awaits Trinamool candidates unless the party can get its act together soon. (IPA Service)