After Union Home Minister Amit Shah said a few days ago that there was an environment in West Bengal for the imposition of president’s rule in West Bengal, “everyone on the team questioned that, but I didn’t,” BJP MP and Union Minister Babul Supriyo had said, raising a political maelstrom, with uproar in the state and national politics. Today once again, the BJP MP gave a stern warning to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government that had questioned the legitimacy of imposing Article 356 on the state.
Babul Supriyo said, “There is a provision of dawai (medicine) in the constitution. The way the state government has unleashed terror on the people of Bengal, it is not impossible for the union government.”
Signalled the implementation of Article 356 in West Bengal as a distinct possibility, Babu Supriyo today said assembly elections are held time and again, but if there was an atmosphere of panic here, the polls would be held in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
Babul Supriyo alleged that the TMC had killed more than 100 BJP workers in the state. The Trinamool, however, dismissed the claim as untrue.
Claims and counter-claims notwithstanding, fire gutted a BJP office in West Bengal’s District North 24 Parganas on 19 November. Politicians alleged that the ruling TMC was behind the incident, a charge denied by the ruling party.
The BJP office that was burnt last night is located at Babanpur under the Barrackpur Lok Sabha constituency of BJP’s Arjun Singh.
The police said that there was a report of a fire at a party office in Babanpur area under Mohanpur gram panchayat. “It was not clear how the fire broke out around midnight last night. A case has started,” a police officer said.
At the same time, assailants had hacked a TMC activist to death at Jagaddal in North 24 Parganas the previous day. Akash Prasad (26) was from Ward 12 of Bhatpara Municipality. “My son got a call on Wednesday night asking him to step out of the house, which he refused to do. A local youth, Ashoke Shaw, barged in and dragged my son out of the house. His body was recovered late in the night,” claimed the victim’s father.
Shaw’s neighbours from Jagaddal’s Palghat Road said the incident took place at around 11:30 PM. Akash’s body was found lying in a pool of blood in an abandoned field barely 300 metres from his house.
Now Babul is directly targeting Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, saying, “BJP workers are constantly being killed in the state. And if Didi thinks that there is a weak government at the centre, she is making the biggest mistake of her life.”
“Because in the constitution,” Babul Supriyo said, “it is clearly written how such governments can be disciplined. And walking that path is not impossible (for the Narendra Modi government). The BJP workers and the people cannot continue to be subjected to violence and people cannot be denied their voting rights.”
Prime Minister Modi has said, the MP reminded, that political violence does not win the support of the people.
Reacting to the warning, TMC MP Saugata Roy said, “I have heard Babul Supriyo’s remarks. He spoke of possible imposition of Article 356. He said there was a provision in the constitution if law and order of a state was disturbed. Trinamool is not giving importance to such statements.”
“On Article 356,” Roy said, “the Supreme Court has clearly stated under what conditions and circumstances it can be done. His (Babul Supriyo’s) political statement has no value. Law-and-order in West Bengal has not reached the point where a presidential rule has to be imposed.”
The veteran TMC MP posed, “When a criminal shoots eight policemen in Uttar Pradesh, is that not a collapse of law and order?” referring to the Hathras incident.
“Twenty-year-old Dalit girl is murdered after being raped, then law and order is not broken?” Roy asked, based on the relatively more popular narrative of the incident in Uttar Pradesh.
The CPI(M) is curiously circumspect on the issue. Reacting to Babul Supriyo’s assertion, communist Sujan Chakraborty asked if a BJP supporter getting killed in Tufanganj warrants president’s rule in West Bengal. “We are not in favour of Article 356. In fact, the BJP wants to help the TMC by raising the issue of president’s rule before the election.”
Since 1977, when the Indian National Congress lost power in the state, there have been innumerable occasions when rumours were agog in West Bengal that Indira Gandhi or later Rajiv Gandhi or PV Narasimha Rao would impose Article 356 on the state, but none ever did. The INC feared it would create a sympathy wave for the ruling coalition that would come back to power with a greater mandate in the election that must follow.
However, imposition of president’s rule for a brief period only to hold this assembly election in April-May 2021, with a promise to lift it immediately thereafter, may not make voters sympathetic of Mamata Banerjee, a section of the BJP believes.