OPINION: Competitive mayhem

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - It’s time to douse the bonfire of sanity.

Both the ascendant Bharatiya Janata Party and the battered Trinamul Congress have been engaged in awesome bouts of competitive mayhem ever since 23 May when the Lok Sabha election results were declared. Both are to blame for the grim situation in West Bengal.

The spurt in killings, with four deaths in the backwaters of North 24-Parganas district, comes in the immediate aftermath of the Chief Minister announcing a ban on victory rallies. A blanket ban can have an effect that is direly contrary to what the imprimatur seeks to ensure. This is precisely the prognosis of the convulsions last weekend.

As it turns out, both sides have gone on overkill and literally so. The visual of grievous injuries suffered by a police officer in South Dinajpur is suggestive of a calculated attack on the law-enforcement authorities, the force that sustains the established order. In point of fact, Saturday’s eruption of violence was extensive, stretching from South to North Bengal.

It is a measure of the volatile ambience throughout the state that the surge in inter-party attacks over the past few days has surpassed the violence that was witnessed in the weeks before the elections. It is palpable too that a swathe of Bengal now bears witness to a struggle for the mastery of turfs. That struggle assumed mortal proportions in Basirhat on Saturday when three BJP activists and one Trinamul worker were done to death.

The outlook is ominous, even at the mildest estimation. Both parties must hold their fire, but the very obvious is easier suggested than accomplished. Mamata Banerjee’s somewhat rhetorical chant ~ in response to the Home ministry’s advisory ~ that “an injured tiger is more dangerous than a dead one” can bring but cold comfort to the bereaved families.

Nor can it lessen tensions. Hoi-polloi has been kept guessing on what transpired at Monday’s meeting between the West Bengal Governor, Mr Keshari Nath Tripathi, and the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah. This isn’t the juncture to speculate on the shape of the political landscape to come.

Suffice it to register that both the Centre and the state ought now to make a concerted effort to maintain the peace, and no less urgently get on with the task of governance which now lies rather thin on the ground. The Chief Minister sounds presumptuous when she accuses the BJP dispensation at the Centre of “conspiring to topple the government”.

Innuendos can only make the waters murkier, and the caveat applies as much to the BJP as to the Trinamul Congress. Having failed to stem the mayhem on Saturday, the police went on overdrive on Sunday when it stopped BJP activists from bringing the bodies of party workers, who were shot dead in Basirhat, to the party office in Kolkata for supporters to pay their last respects, a wholly unnecessary and pointedly provocative step designed to exacerbate tensions.

Regretfully, a solemn occasion was reduced to a grave law and order issue and that is symptomatic of post-election West Bengal.


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