BJP is new challenge for Trinamul in Lalgarh
Shyamal Mahato, once a key operative of an organisation backed by Maoists in Lalgarh and now a Trinamul Congress leader, was busy fiddling with his two smartphones as information streams in on the BJP’s activities in the area.
After sending messages and making at least six phone calls to his colleagues in Trinamul on how to respond, Shyamal dialled a man, calling him Sir. He was seeking the help of a man in the administration.
“They (BJP men) have come here to create trouble. Sir, please deal with them firmly,” Shyamal told the man on the other side of the call.
Shyamal’s worry reflected the new battle in the Jungle Mahal since the saffron brigade’s emergence in Lalgarh and its adjoining areas as a formidable opposition force.
The BJP made its presence felt in this belt in the recent panchayat polls. In the Jhargram district alone, Trinamul lost 28 gram panchayats out of 79. In terms of number of seats, the ruling party’s candidates won 375 out of 780 in the area.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has realised the BJP’s threat to her party. Addressing a public rally at Jamboni in Jhargram on Monday, she accused the BJP of indulging in divisive politics to reap political dividends ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
If the exasperation that Shyamal displayed in front of this correspondent last week is juxtaposed with the focused attack Mamata launched on the BJP on Monday, it is clear the ruling party of Bengal is worried about the surge of the BJP in the tribal belt.
The pensive mood of leaders in the ruling party can be compared with what CPM satraps had vis-à-vis Maoists in Lalgarh and the adjoining Belpahari, Banspahari and Goaltorh areas when the Left was in power a decade ago.
The rebels left the area after intensified police actions, but the CPM had become a decaying force by then.
“Although Trinamul still rules the state and is winning polls, there is a fear regarding the saffron surge,” said a senior police officer.
After the dismal performance in the rural elections, Mamata overhauled Trinamul’s ground level leadership. Shyamal became the Binpur 1 block president of the party.
The man in his 30s was on the run after security forces entered Lalgarh. He had nine cases, including waging war against the state, and was acquitted in five. Shyamal’s political affiliation changed and so did his life. He had a ramshackle motorcycle during the Lalgarh movement and travels in an SUV now.
“The CPM is no longer a factor here. Our challenge is to fight the BJP,” he said.
Other than Trinamul workers, a considerable number of civic volunteers, who were recruited in the past few years, have been assigned for surveillance on BJP activists.
After the setback in the panchayat polls, the civic volunteers were asked to go on a door-to-door visit at remote villages to inquire about the factors that led to the BJP’s rise in the area.
Each police stations like Lalgarh, Binpur, Belpahari and Goaltorh has more than 200 civic volunteers. “These young men are from every village in the area and have cellphones. They have been asked to keep a close watch on outsiders, who can be Maoists or BJP activists. The volunteers are also strong part of our intelligence network,” said a Trinamul leader in Lalgarh.