Bypoll results show relying on NRC won’t do
Trinamool Congress’s victory last week in all the three Bengal assembly seats that had bypolls shows that BJP should stop resting on the laurels of its Lok Sabha election performance. True, BJP had won a whopping 18 seats in Bengal during national polls. But the bypoll results indicate that voters are able to discern between state and national level elections. In fact, chief minister Mamata Banerjee dubbed the victory as a rejection of BJP’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) pitch. There is some merit to this as BJP had made the promise of a pan-India NRC its main poll plank in these elections.
The strategy did not work for two reasons. First, state level elections see voters attach greater importance to local issues. Therefore, a pan-India NRC does not work here. Second, after the NRC exercise in Assam saw 19 lakh people — 12 lakh of whom were Hindus and Hindu Bengalis — not make it to the rolls, the idea of replicating the exercise in Bengal clearly put off voters. There is a history to the NRC in Assam. But in trying to export the exercise to Bengal, BJP is failing to gauge state-specific nuances and sentiments.
The demand for NRC in Assam was partly driven by the anxiety of being culturally overwhelmed by Bengalis from erstwhile East Pakistan and later Bangladesh. But no such cultural anxiety exists in Bengal where the majority is Bengali. Besides, if BJP hopes to polarise voters along Hindu-Muslim lines through NRC in Bengal, that too won’t work. History shows that Bengali culture has always trumped religious parochialism. The liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan exemplifies this. Even BJP’s Bengal vice-president Chandra Kumar Bose has said that the pan-Indian NRC strategy would not apply to the land of Vivekananda and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Thus, BJP would do well to go back to the drawing board and draw up a new positive plan for Bengal minus the NRC.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.