The way the first ever BJP government of Tripura flaunted its muscle, physically beating down its political opponents blatantly, unmindful of the exposes, and looted the local bodies through sheer violence preventing other political candidates to even file their nominations for the local bodies elections in the state under the leadership of its Bangladeshi migrant chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, has touched a new low in mobocracy.
The Supreme Court taking note of the complaints of large-scale rigging ordered despatch of additional central forces to maintain law and order. But it seems to make little difference to Biplab Deb’s BJP government, as videos went viral of the capture of polling booths even in the capital city of Agartala, making a mockery of democracy and elections. For instance, in one video a woman voter was seen going to the EVM to vote but before she can press the button a man standing next to the polling officer walks up, presses the button in full view of the polling officer and walks back smiling to the officer, while the poor woman agape walks away. Has any action been taken by either the BJP government or the Election Commission or the apex court which has been approached? Not yet. Nor would it ever be. That’s the so-called democracy we are to experience in Modi times.
After all when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the gumption to stonewall any discussion on the repeal of the farm laws, in Parliament lest the Opposition shows him the mirror, If the Rajya Sabha Questions department strikes away, after admitting a question on the unannounced martial law against Indians living abroad coming to help the agitating farmers, to cover the sly action of Modi’s government, why would the chief ministers of BJP states, not be encouraged to shelve the rule of law too.
Back to Tripura, in the run up to the local bodies polls, the first thing the BJP government did was to prevent candidates from CPI-M and now emerging Trinamul Congress (TMC) from filing their nominations. Thirty-six candidates, including 15 candidates of the opposition CPI-M, four of Trinamool Congress (TMC), eight of Congress, two of the AIFB, and seven Independent candidates “withdrew” their nominations, election official claimed. Ambassa Municipal Council, Jirania Nagar Panchayat, Mohanpur Municipal Council, Ranirbazar Municipal Council, Bishalgarh Municipal Council, Udaipur Municipal Council and Santirbazar Municipal Council had no opposition candidates. One report said of some 300 odd seats, BJP candidates returned uncontested on 136 seats and another put the figure at 112. No surprise then that the BJP won all but a handful of seats,
Mind you this is the UP model, repeated in Tripura. Earlier similar steam rolling was evident in Assam as well. The BJP successfully finessed it first in Uttar Pradesh where the Yogi Adityanath led BJP assaulted and even recorded instances of molesting women candidates of Samajwadi Party in the local bodies’ elections. Thus, even after losing the first phase of local bodies elections, they managed to foist their sarpanches and municipal chairmen of their choice through sheer flexing of muscles.
It is now obvious that Modi decided, much against his wishes, on the eve of elections to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, to repeal the three controversial farm laws, not out of any compassion for the suffering farmers but from sheer expediency of retaining power in the four states it is ruling, only to save BJP’s electoral prospects in the above three states. Otherwise, he remained unmoved for a year by the farmers’ plight as they were kept at bay on the Delhi borders while they observed peaceful dharna opposing Modi push to corporatize agriculture. To date there is no feeling of regret or remorse for putting India’s bread giver the untold hardship in bitter cold winter, sweltering summer heat, pouring monsoon and police atrocities, including putting spikes on highways to create as many and as unsurmountable obstacles in the path of these farmers, as can be.
As for Punjab, for all his effort, BJP may even score a Duck because it does not have a government in Punjab. The past results from Bihar first, then Assam then local elections in Uttar Pradesh and now in Tripura show that it needs to be in government in a state to indulge in arson, violence and all such activities strictly forbidden in poll bound states, to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere. Note for instance how the state of Jammu and Kashmir was slaughtered and turned into two union territories because on its own the BJP could never come to power there.
West Bengal, where Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress is ruling, has proved this even more conclusively. Since the BJP did not have a collaborating state machinery to back it nor the muscle power to beat down its political opponents, it faced a complete rout.
The BJP has a government in all the four states, going to polls next round. But return of power in Uttar Pradesh crucial for retaining power at the Centre in 2024, as none else than Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in a public meeting recently, it will want to win at any cost. Analysts mentioning insiders report that the anti-incumbency factor against Yogi and now even for Modi on account of his sheer arrogance during the CAA agitation, then the farmers’ dharna and even the large scale pandemic deaths has become such a political liability for the BJP that in the normal course the non or anti-BJP parties could in all, win as much as 300 plus seats, according to an inside assessment of the RSS/BJP. But the official machinery is under Yogi’s command and he demonstrated in the local bodies’ polls his muscle power as well. After this to expect a normal peaceful poll in the BJP-ruled states in 2022 will be living in a fool’s paradise. Particularly since the Opposition has neither the bureaucracy with it nor money and muscle power.
All this is worth mentioning because it is now imperative on the part of the Opposition to stand together and fight unitedly the BJP trend of “looting” polls through sheer violence while the institutions meant to ensure fair polls in the interest of democracy stand and watch silently this orgy of violence.
So how does the Opposition contend with this or is it willing to give a walk over to the BJP despite the political situation on the ground? The only way to counter the BJP strategy is to take a leaf from the farmers’ unity, combine the Opposition strength; counter the Modi-Yogi-Amit Shah strategy with peaceful mass movement on the streets till the results of these elections are announced. It’s not easy and considering that none of the main contending opposition parties, namely Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the reinvigorated Congress under Priyanka Gandhi are all fighting against each other. But on this one issue of jointly facing BJP’s violence with combined peaceful dharnas and sit ins in every district, every town in UP maybe they can all agree if they intend to counter the BJP strategy to “loot’ the polls.