The Rath Yatra controversy and BJP’s stakes in West Bengal

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, IndiaWritten By: Lalit ShastriUpdated: Dec 26, 2018, 05:41 PM IST
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File photo of BJP president Amit Shah. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

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BJP's Rath Yatra is aimed at building public opinion against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. BJP views it as a serious issue and the main reason leading to distress among Bengal's youth.

BJP's ‘save democracy’ Rath Yatra (chariot journey), that was scheduled to commence from three different points this Saturday and conclude with party President Amit Shah's public rally after crossing through all the Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, has been grounded even before it could take-off as the Supreme Court this Monday refused to accord a priority hearing on BJP's application challenging a Calcutta High Court order preventing the Yatra in West Bengal.

The Mamata Banerjee government has stiffly opposed BJP's yatra. It used what it calls “intelligence feedback” to drive home the communal angle and raise the law and order issue through a petition filed in the Calcutta high court to stall the Yatra.

At the outset, a single judge bench of the Calcutta high court allowed the Yatra. But a Division Bench of the high court struck down this order after the Mamata government had challenged it.

Since winter holidays were starting, the BJP approached the Supreme Court to seek an urgent hearing in this matter but as the request has been denied by the apex court, the matter will now come up for hearing in the normal course when the court reopens in January 2019. Till then the Yatra would remain on the back-burner and in the interim people will be witnessing a battle of wits and a war of words between the BJP and All India Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal.

After the BJP took up the Ayodhya temple issue, senior party leader L K Advani had embarked on his famous padyatra in September 1990. Advani’s Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra is now history. In 2011, Advani took out another yatra - Jan Chetna Yatra to take on UPA government on the corruption issue.

Except for the nomenclature, there is no ground to compare Advani’s Yatra with BJP’s now postponed “Save Democracy Rath Yatra” in Bengal which is directed against the Mamata Banerjee government and more particularly aimed at building public opinion against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. BJP views it as a serious issue and the main reason leading to distress among the state's youth. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has already launched a campaign in support of a National Register of Citizens on the same lines as Assam to weed out the illegal Bangladeshis from Bengal. 

The social media has been loaded with comments both for and against BJP’s save democracy Rath Yatra. A Twitter post in defence of the BJP said: If this (stopping the BJP from taking out its Rat Yatra) is not akin to Emergency what else is?  Can law and order be an alibi to prevent freedom of Expression?

The present impasse and its outcome will have a far-reaching impact on BJP’s campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha election not only in Bengal but also in other parts of the country. The stakes are too high for the BJP which has already suffered defeat in the just concluded Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - the Hindi heartland states.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)