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TMC and BJP must stop using violence as a political tool

editorials Updated: Jun 11, 2019 17:26 IST
Hindustan Times

BJP activists take part in a silent march as they observe Black Day over the killing of their party workers in various political clashes, Balurghat, South Dinajpur, West Bengal, June 10, 2019(PTI)

One of the biggest tests of a democracy is whether it can ensure a peaceful transfer of power. After all, what is the point of a democratic mandate if it invites vendetta? If there is one state in India which has historically violated this principle, it is West Bengal. Violence of the worst form, including extermination of political opponents, has often been employed by parties, especially the one in power, as a political tactic. The magnitude of this problem increases when there is a political churn in the state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won 18 Lok Sabha seats and more than 40% of the vote share in West Bengal. This has come as a jolt to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). As a result, political violence has engulfed the state. While it is the BJP which allegedly has lost more workers, the TMC cadres have also been killed. The point is no one can claim a moral high ground vis-a-vis the mess that has been created.

What is to be done? The state government and the ruling party need to get their house in order. As law and order is a state subject, there cannot be any excuses for what is happening in West Bengal right now. Victims of violence and their kin have often argued that the police have not done its duty to protect them from being attacked. Any officers found to be failing in their duty should be given exemplary punishment and made an example of. If there is no improvement on this front, the judiciary should step in and take charge by appointing a commission to probe the political violence.

Having said this, it needs to be underlined that the problem in West Bengal is not an administrative one alone. Unless the political leadership of both ruling and opposition parties are willing to shun violence as a political tool, things will not improve. The BJP has inducted many of former TMC leaders both before and after the Lok Sabha polls. The same thing happened when the TMC wrested power from the Left earlier this decade. When political change is about old actors changing camps rather than new actors replacing the old, existing vices are likely to remain.

Can the BJP use its freshly earned political capital in West Bengal to appeal for peace rather than pushing for immediate consolidation? Can TMC chief and chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, accept the reverses as a political mandate rather than peddle conspiracy theories? West Bengal’s harmony is contingent on these two questions.

First Published: Jun 11, 2019 17:25 IST