The ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party of India had to taste a humiliating defeat in the recently concluded assembly election in one of the most important states.
The people of West Bengal re-elected Trinamool Congress (TC) with a brute majority in the legislature of 294 seats. While the TC bagged 213 seats, the BJP won merely 77.
This is despite aggressive campaigning by nobody less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In an attempt to woo the voters of West Bengal, Modi disguised himself in the look of Nobel prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, a revered Bengali scholar, by sporting long hair along with a thick flowing beard.
But this badly failed to impress most voters and the results are before us. The fable of the wolf getting killed by a meat-seeking shepherd after hiding itself behind sheep's clothing was proven right by the people of West Bengal.
The moral of the story about a stupid wolf who thought of such a plan to lure sheep and eat them all was lost on Modi and his strategists.
After all, Modi couldn’t hide his true colours in spite of those Tagore looks. Modi stands for everything that was detested by the liberal and progressive Tagore—in fact, the BJP tried to polarize the Hindu majority against Muslims in the state.
Attacks on religious minorities have grown under Modi ever since the BJP came to power in New Delhi in 2014. If the BJP's loss in this election is any indication, these divisive politics have been rejected by the people of West Bengal.
However, this is not to suggest that the undercurrent of the BJP’s continued growth in the state should be overlooked. In the last assembly election back in 2016, the party won only three seats.
The increased number of seats and the decimation of the left that ruled the state for almost three decades before the TC first came to power suggest that the broader fight against the BJP’s brand of religious politics isn’t over yet. It should rather worry everyone who is concerned about India increasingly becoming intolerant.
The left, which has been known as a staunch flag bearer of secularism, is licking its wounds as Hindu nationalists have been able to make inroads in a state that was once seen as the cadre-based territory of the Marxists. Their opportunism in teaming up up with Congress to oust TC from power has only helped the BJP by splitting secular votes.
It is fine to celebrate the death of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, but the sheep mentality of the most privileged among the Hindu majority across the country has turned India into a near Hindu theocracy. That needs to be radically changed.