Now that the backroom boy, that is Prashant Kishor, has sounded like a muezzin addressing the faithfuls that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is worth less than 100 seats in upcoming West Bengal polls, I actually find both his bluster and the figure quite interesting.
Hundred are the constituencies which smell the long 2216.17km border West Bengal shares with Bangladesh. Forty-five are quite close to it; the other 55 not so close but not too distant either. I could nuance it further for your benefit: 25:20 ratio of these 45 seats is between North and South Bengal; 16:39 works out the equation between the two in the 55 near-border constituencies.
Now let’s do some further maths through the lens of history. The tragedy of the Partition forced bucketful of East Bangladeshis to pour into the Indian side of Bengal who over the years are labelled as Namasudras or Matuas of West Bengal. The horror of leaving their land, properties, dear ones, often lost cruelly, are not easily recounted or understood. A sea of humanity poured across the border looking for a refuge in a land which once was undivided for them but now a foreign land, forced by the cruel machinations of politicians and the tragic hand of history.
In initial years, the trek to West Bengal was a torrent; it fell into a cruise pattern, so to say, over the next two decades before again swelling to fearsome proportions during the monstrous year of 1971 when West Pakistan and its generals unleashed a terrible tragedy on their eastern wing and Bangladeshis, most of whom were Hindus, again cascaded in millions across to India.
This is a seminal moment in our story. For we classify these hapless millions as refugees, different from infiltrators which are part of the Islamist agenda, fostered by Pakistan and Jihadi forces in Bangladesh, and possibly much, much bigger international network after the transitional year of 1971.
Over the years, the distinction between refugees and infiltrators has blurred. But both served a purpose for the ruling class of West Bengal which largely is a story of Left parties and Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee. Refugees were insecure and afraid of their status and were first lured by Left on the promise of Ration Cards and Voters Cards which they airbrushed as citizenship documents, making it a win-win for both sides. Refugees believed themselves to be now bonafide citizens of India; the monstrous politicians secured themselves captive votes and thus power. It was one theme which has continued uninterrupted during Mamata’s Decade.
What do you think is the number? The last Census tell us that West Bengal has a little over 9 crores people in its fold. At the start of this year, BJP chief Dilip Ghosh put the figure to 2 crores Bangladeshi infiltrators in India, 70 lakhs of whom were in West Bengal. Now we can excuse politicians for being over the top at times; and by infiltrators he could be meaning both infiltrators and refugees, but there is little doubt the number is a huge chunk. And that refugees outnumber infiltrators.
Most of the refugees affect these 100 constituencies I mentioned earlier which is 34% of the total seats in West Bengal assembly (243 seats). That’s not all, a substantial count of refugees from Bangladesh are spread across Kolkata in big numbers.
So when Prashant Kishor thumps his chest, and we know that he deals in numbers, he appears to have done his maths well. His career and reputation is built on his strike rate: The more he succeeds across States; more are the chances that he would remain a prized catch for others. That’s the reason he chooses his political “clients” carefully—Bihar, AAP etc—which are “safe”. Success would bring followers in millions and possibly billions in cash or cheque. Kishor obviously thinks West Bengal is safe for Mamata, worked out as he has his maths.
But Kishor obviously is not factoring in Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The best chance for BJP to wrest control of West Bengal—and thereby securing the explosive eastern wing of India, riven by dissensions, separatists, jihadis and hostile neighbours—is if it implements the CAA. The refugees by now know that Ration Cards and Voters Card are no citizenship documents. For that matter even a passport is not one. Thus, if BJP was to implement the CAA, refugees would decisively shift their allegiance to them. The CAA rules make these refugees safe and bonafide citizens of India and how they would love this cover of security for themselves and their next generations. It’s the infiltrators who would face the heat.
And time they did.
Debjani Bhattacharyya is a columnist who’s a keen observer of politics and social changes.. A communication-strategist by profession having special aptitude for analytical jackknifing of information, Debjani is a Pharmaceutical Engineer & a Management Professional by her credentials.
Analysis of data & information for generating insights for policy planning is a passion while her other significant area of interest is the Constitution of India and its interpretations thereof. She’s a voracious reader with enormous affinity towards Classics of Bengali Literature. She is an opinion-maker on social media through her blog, twitter and facebook.