Is West Bengal heading for President’s Rule?

The BJP has got wind in its sails after winning 18 of the state’s 42 parliamentary seats, demoralising the state’s ruling Trinamul Congress.

Although West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday, sought to play down the speculation that the idea of bringing the state under President’s Rule was discussed in his interactions, at this stage it is hard to quell doubts that the BJP-led Centre may be planning to topple the Mamata Banerjee government.

This would be a singularly inadvisable course and in his constitutional role, the governor is seeking to imply that he has not made a recommendation for the imposition of Article 356. That is just as well. However, how much is the decision in the hands of Mr Tripathi, really speaking? He is an old RSS warhorse and it will surprise no one if he did the Centre’s bidding.

To some extent, this is indicated by his response to the media in New Delhi on Sunday. He said he had come to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his grand Lok Sabha victory. Governors, on paper, are appointees of the President and are meant to be above the political fray. Governors should not be “calling on” PMs to felicitate them on political victories. Mr Tripathi’s words perhaps betray his inclinations.

The governor’s trip to New Delhi came on the day after the Union home ministry issued an advisory, which reportedly carried the stamp of the home minister, which lamented the decline of the law and order situation in the state and asked Kolkata to pull up its socks. The West Bengal government has evidently seen this as an impending threat of dismissal. The chief secretary responded immediately, to say the situation was “under control”, although “anti-social elements” had engaged in post-poll violence. On Monday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee went out on a political attack through a statement.

None of this admits of the prospect of good times for the state. Evidently, a political war is on. The BJP has got wind in its sails after winning 18 of the state’s 42 parliamentary seats, demoralising the state’s ruling Trinamul Congress. The CM is doing her best to fight back. Assembly polls are two years away, and the BJP is preparing the political ground for it. Even if the elected state government is not dismissed now, as such a move will appear blatantly partial and motivated, the Centre could show its hand a few months before the Assembly elections.

Violence has rocked states — such as Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar — ruled by the BJP and its allies, and the Centre hasn’t twitched a muscle. Even so, while the TMC may prepare to fight the BJP politically, it should begin with curbing violence. For many months prior to the recent Lok Sabha polls, the TMC, BJP and CPI(M) cadres have been locked in violence, with the ruling party perhaps bearing the biggest responsibility. This must end.

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