Will BJP’s electoral promises in Bengal turn out to be another ‘jumla’?

Amit Shah’s latest promise, 33% reservation for women in govt jobs, remind of the party’s similar commitment of one third women representation in Parliament and assemblies in its 2014 manifesto, only to never ever discuss it. In previous assembly polls, the party made several economy related promises but they are yet to be fulfilled

New Delhi: Amid chants of “Jai Shri Ram”, union home minister Amit Shah flagged off Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) fifth and final rath yatra on Thursday, in South-24 Parganas district for the upcoming assembly polls in West Bengal.

“With these Parivartan Yatras (rallies for change) we will reach every door in Bengal with the Jai Shri Ram slogan,” said Shah while terming BJP’s political slogan as “symbol” of alleged “anti-appeasement politics” of Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

While addressing a public gathering, among other announcements, Shah also promised to provide 33% reservation to women in government jobs in the state if people of Bengal bring BJP in power.

Just a week ago during his first visit when Shah had started first “Parivartan Yatra” from Cooch Behar, he made two other lucrative promises — credit of Rs 18,000 in each farmer’s account and citizenship to the Matua community through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

At the beginning of February, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the central government’s Budget 2021, allocated Rs 25,000 crore for infrastructure in Bengal. Railway minister Piyush Goyal also allocated Rs 6,636 crore for rail projects in the state. Besides Bengal, BJP has also announced multi-crore allocations for infrastructure development in three other poll-bound states — Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal has also proposed an outlay of Rs 29,96,88 crore in its state Budget 2021-22.

All recent budgetary allocations and promises made by the saffron party are part of its strategy to defeat the Trinamool government led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But, despite all this, there is a tough fight for BJP which has been dreaming to overthrow the Mamata Banerjee government since 2014, when it came to power at the centre.

bjp electoral promises west bengal jumla election caa citizenship matuas jobs women reservation
Screenshot of BJP’s 2014 Lok Sabha Election manifesto

‘Jumla’ politics

Political scientist Prof. Dwaipayan Bhattacharya at Jawaharlal Nehru University, while speaking to eNewsroom said that budgetary allocation would not decide electoral verdict for either the BJP or the TMC but “how such allocation is played out in public domain” and “a lot will depend, [on] which party will sound more convincing” to the voters.

Prof. Bhattacharya maintained, “While a section of Bengal’s electorate wants alignment with those in power at the Centre, a good number also prefers federal autonomy for the state. The TMC’s insider-outsider rhetoric is meant mainly to appeal the latter.”

In the 2016 state elections, BJP could win only three out of 294 assembly seats. But it got 18 seats out of 42 in the Lok Sabha election (2019) which enhanced its hope.

Kavita Krishnan, a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) — Liberation (CPI(ML)-Liberation) doubted the impact of Union Budget allocations to Bengal and Amit Shah’s promises.

“BJP can’t use the centre’s funds as a bribe for political gain in the assembly election. BJP has already made much mistrust. They don’t know Bengal politics and its society. Amit Shah has made vague promises. There is unease for BJP in Bengal,” Krishnan said while recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to deliver Rs 15 lakh to each citizen’s bank account during the 2014 general elections which was later termed as a ‘jumla’ by the then BJP president Amit Shah in a TV interview.

BJP’s vague electoral promises

During the 2015 Bihar elections, PM Modi had himself promised a Rs 1.25-crore special package for Bihar while campaigning but it was not delivered after BJP lost the election as revealed in an RTI reply filed by RTI activist Anil Galgali to the Union finance ministry in December 2016.

During the 2020 assembly polls in Bihar, BJP faced severe criticism for announcing “free coronavirus vaccination for all” if the party came to power.

In May 2020, BJP had announced Rs 20 lakh crore as special economic relief during the Covid-19 pandemic to uplift India from the economic slowdown and make it self-reliant (Atmanirbhar Bharat). But, since then there is no official report that can suggest how much money the central government spent in various states.

In 2014, BJP had promised in its manifesto that it would bring 33 percent reservation for women in the parliament, which was never even discussed in the house in these years.

Promise for the creation one crore jobs for the youth was made by none other than Modi himself in 2013, as PM candidate but it has become a dream for the youths of India. Instead of new job creation, the decision of demonetization and lockdown, crores of Indians have lost jobs in the recent past.

Party had also promised to implement the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, doubling farmers’ income and assurance of higher Minimum Support Price (MSP) for productivity. But later on in June 2018, PM Modi announced a plan to double farmers’ income by 2022.

Contrary to its promises, BJP brought three new farm laws last year without consultation with farmers’ groups. Consequently, thousands of farmers have been agitating against the laws at Delhi’s borders since November 2020.

 CAA and Matuas

It is clear that with just lofty financial announcements, BJP cannot dent into the bastion of TMC. Hence, it has come up with its trump card, the CAA and other possible Hindutva politics tools. BJP has been promising citizenship for Bangla-speaking Hindus in Assam and Bengal from Bangladesh, claiming that Muslims from the neighbouring country are regularly infiltrating. But in Bengal, it seems scared to talk about the National Register of Citizenship (NRC). Due to delaying over formulating rules by the central government, TMC sees CAA implementation as a sham.

Both BJP and TMC have an eye on the Matua community as it shares a good proportion of population in the state. But Shah’s promise to grant them citizenship after winning the election, when the Covid-19 vaccination process is completed, is questionable.

Kavita Krishnan said that BJP was using CAA as a bargaining tool during election time. “BJP is transparently dishonest. Despite one year after bringing CAA, why didn’t they grant them citizenship? Citizenship is granted by the central government, not by the state government. So why are they promising it in a state election?” asked Krishnan. She added that the BJP government which is in power at the Centre for about seven years should seek votes based on its performance.

Prof. Bhattacharya pointed out, “Sections of Matuas don’t want CAA-NRC since the twin laws demand that they prove their citizenship afresh with documents while many had always claimed legitimate citizenship. To claim that they are persecuted refugees without adequate papers would invalidate their previous claims.”

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