Ya­tra con­test

FrontLine - - COMMUNALISM - BY SUHRID SANKAR CHATTOPADHYAY

AS the 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tion draws near, pol­i­tics in West Ben­gal has taken a new twist with the par­ties com­pet­ing to hold ya­tras (cer­e­mo­nial pro­ces­sions) and long marches. This form of cam­paign, alien to Ben­gal’s po­lit­i­cal cul­ture, was sparked off by the much-hyped “rath ya­tra” planned by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The rul­ing Tri­namool Congress im­me­di­ately coun­tered it with a plan to hold a shud­dhikaran, or pu­rifi­ca­tion, ya­tra. Although ad­min­is­tra­tive and ju­di­cial hur­dles forced the BJP to post­pone its rath ya­tra from the sched­uled date of De­cem­ber 7, the bat­tle­lines were drawn as the two par­ties were locked in a tense and vi­o­lent face-off over the mat­ter.

The BJP had pinned a lot of hope on the rath ya­tra, which was to have been kicked off by party pres­i­dent Amit Shah, to spike its vote share and con­sol­i­date its po­si­tion at the ground level. La­belling it as a “Save Democ­racy” ya­tra was a ploy to kill two birds with one stone—at­tack the Tri­namool gov­ern­ment and at the same time ex­tend the BJP’S po­lit­i­cal reach in its tra­di­tional fash­ion. The 41-day rath ya­tra was to have taken place in Cooch Be­har and Birb­hum dis­tricts and in Gan­gasagar in South 24 Para­ganas dis­trict.

At the out­set, Chief Min­is­ter and Tri­namool supremo Ma­mata Baner­jee dis­missed the BJP’S call for a rath ya­tra as a po­lit­i­cal gim­mick and an­nounced a “Pu­rifi­ca­tion and Unity Ya­tra”. “I have told my party work­ers to con­duct pu­rifi­ca­tion and unity ya­tras to cleanse the places through which the BJP’S char­i­ots will pass.... It is Ra­van ya­tra [that the BJP is

Com­pet­i­tive “ya­tras” by the BJP and the rul­ing Tri­namool Congress mark a new twist in West Ben­gal pol­i­tics.

AR­RANGE­MENTS AT the venue on Na­tional High­way 31 in Cooch Be­har on De­cem­ber 7 in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a rally to launch the BJP’S rath ya­tra.

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