Analyzing the Impact: Sandeshkhali Sting Operation on Bengal’s Political Landscape

How the Sandeshkhali sting operation has prompted intense debate and political finger-pointing in West Bengal's election arena

Sandeshkhali and so on? That is, how will the voters of West Bengal judge after the Sandeshkhali sting operation? For now, this is the most important question ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections. That’s because Sandeshkhali’s sting operation has brought out many facts, which Trinamool is saying how the BJP or Suvendu Adhikari hatched a conspiracy to defame West Bengal! And perhaps similarly for sectarian polarization. After that incident, there is certainly room for discussion and debate on how the third round of voting will be conducted. The Sandeshkhali sting and then the BJP’s appeal for votes to protect Sanatan Dharma sparked a heated debate that in the districts where polls are being held in West Bengal, mostly inhabited by minority communities. That is, whom will the people of Malda and Murshidabad decide to vote for, especially considering whether Berhampore will elect a Muslim to the Lok Sabha for the first time since independence. We have to remember that even after 75 years of independence, neither the Left nor the Congress has ever sent a Muslim from Berhampore to the Lok Sabha. Now Yusuf Pathan of Trinamool has an incredible opportunity.

There is probably a ‘sting’ operation sour relationship with the BJP somewhere. Had it not been for Tehelkar’s sting operation, the information about how George Fernandez or the then BJP government at the Center was abetting various corruptions would not have come to light. This time Sandeshkhali’s sting operation has not only shocked us but has raised the question of whether the BJP can sacrifice the honour or shame of women for political interests. Are the allegations against Shuvendu Adhikari true? That is, he wanted to jail Trinamool leaders by raising false allegations against women only for political interests. That is, what Mamata Banerjee has been saying for a long time, that the CBI ED or various central investigation agencies are being used by the BJP to uproot political opponents from the land to jail them and establish their political dominance. ?

We have to remember how the IT cell of Gerua Shibir tried to intensify communal polarization after the women’s protest in Sandeshkhali came to the fore. Even the two arrested leaders of the Trinamool, Shibu and Uttam, were Muslims and the propaganda implied that Hindu women were being physically assaulted or sexually assaulted by Muslims. Not only the whole of India has been in uproar about this whole incident but the all-India leaders of the BJP have also repeatedly appeared. All Indian leaders of the BJP, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself to BJP Home Minister Amit Shah, have tried to use Sandeshkhali as a tool to attract tribal and Dalit women across India to the BJP. But with the newly leaked sting video suggesting that women were lied to only to jail political opponents, does one assume that winning votes by communal polarization is so central to the other camp that women’s honour and shame are not an issue? Can women be lied to in front of television for just a few bucks? And of course, the question will be raised, how come different media, television channels of our country, more specifically West Bengal, have shouted about Sandeshkhali day after day that ‘women’s honour has been lost in dust’, why they did not judge the truth of the incident?

In this scenario, West Bengal’s third phase of polling is in Malda and Murshidabad, where the majority of Muslims live. We have to remember what intense communal polarization Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to do by campaigning in West Bengal and even standing in Malda. By misinterpreting a statement by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about how he tried to incite other communities against Muslims. How he said that the Congress will take away the wealth of Dalits and tribals and distribute it among the Muslims! Everyone else, including the Congress and the Trinamool, has come out against this hate speech by Prime Minister Modi. The Election Commission alleged that the Prime Minister’s hate speech, the leaked Sandeshkhali video and the BJP’s advertisement calling it ‘Sanatan Dharma vipanna’ were communally evil. Also to be dealt with is Adhir Chowdhury, who has repeatedly riled the state’s ruling party over vacancies, and who at one point even wanted to see Abhijit Gangopadhyay as chief minister. Adhir Chowdhury himself is already cornered, the way this sting video has disgraced the Sandeshkhali incident, then what will the state Congress president say?

Adhir Chowdhury will, of course, have to face the question on the ground that Berhampore will decide whether he goes to the Lok Sabha for the sixth time or becomes the leader of the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha. It is noteworthy that Adhir Chowdhury has so far not said anything about the sting video of Sandeshkhali, nor have the spokespersons of the Congress who have so far often taunted the ruling party in the language of the BJP. “The question is, what will the minorities, who had to endure constant humiliation, humiliation and ridicule for being Shahjahan’s ‘own tribe’, and who have been crucified for the ‘crimes’ committed by Shahjahan, do in the third phase of the state’s elections?” Which side will you vote for? Will the Muslims not convey their message to the Lok Sabha to get rid of this ‘liability’? If you deliver, what will happen in Berhampore, where no Muslim has won to date? We have to remember that Muslims are in majority in the entire Murshidabad district. Even Berhampore, from where no non-Hindu has ever been elected to the Lok Sabha, is far ahead of the Muslims in terms of population. Will the challenge thrown by the Trinamool Congress to Adhir Chowdhury by fielding Yusuf Pathan in that Lok Sabha constituency show any new light this time?

For Yusuf Pathan, the ‘pinch-hitter’ on the cricket field, who led India to the World Cup and many memorable victories in the IPL, politics is a different pitch. But Yusuf Pathan, a religious man by nature, whose father himself was once involved in religious practice, has come to take up the challenge of Murshidabad. How will the people of Murshidabad see this? How to see the city of Siraj-ud-Daulah? We must remember that the BJP, to sharpen communal polarisation, even in Krishnanagar, has fielded someone who is known as Rajmata, who has herself said that her family went with Mir Jafar, not Siraj, in the battle of Plassey. “Narendra Modi has not said ‘Jai Mirzapur’. “But will the people of Murshidabad speak or give any verdict against this polarization of the BJP and the ‘silence’ of Adhir Chowdhury?” Of course, Berhampur is a very important and eye-catching centre in the third phase of polling.

As a student of politics, I believe that every election has a turning point. The turning point of the 2021 assembly elections was the killing of four villagers by firing in Sitalkuchi. I wrote that it was a George Floyd moment in Indian politics. The moment it was decided what kind of rule the saffron camp or the ruling party at the centre wanted to bring down in Bengal. And one of the confidantes of the saffron camp, the then Superintendent of Police of Cooch Behar, Debashis Dhar, announced his candidature and explained to the BJP where it wants to push West Bengal. “If Sitalkuchi is the ‘George Floydian’ moment of 2021 or the turning point, is the advertisement on Sanatan Dharma from the Sandeshkhali video leak going to be the turning point for West Bengal in the 2024 elections?”

How does it feel to be a student of politics? Maybe Suvendu Adhikari’s’ misadventure ‘will send the saffron camp far away from the desired results in West Bengal. And it has created a new political challenge for those like Adhir Chowdhury, who were more engaged in cornering the TMC than opposing the BJP. Therefore, the verdict of Berhampore is the most important in the third phase of voting.

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