File photo | West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee along with the daughter of TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, at Kolkata | PTI
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After Nitish Kumar joined hands with Lalu Yadav in the 2015 Bihar assembly election, many thought the BJP would have an easy time dethroning the chief minister. All that Nitish had was his own clean and popular image, but now he had sullied it by coming together with the icon of Jungle Raj, Lalu Yadav. The BJP began asking voters if they wanted Jungle Raj 2.0.

Narendra Modi’s first rally for that election was in Muzaffarpur. Naturally, he was expected to start by talking about Nitish Kumar doing a deal with Jungle Raj. But Prashant Kishor, Nitish Kumar’s campaign manager at the time, made Kumar ask Narendra Modi 10 questions on Twitter that morning. At a welcome programme for the prime minister just before the Muzaffarpur rally, he made Nitish Kumar attack the Modi government strongly on issues of Bihar’s development such as the special status demand. And he also launched a new slogan that morning: “Jhanse mein na aayenge, Nitish ko jitayenge.” (We won’t be fooled, we’ll make Nitish win.)

The result was that Modi was forced to make his attack on Nitish Kumar the main pitch of his speech. Modi began by saying, those who used to mock me for using Twitter are now asking me questions on Twitter! Modi’s attack became personal when he said Nitish’s DNA was faulty, which Kishor promptly turned into an affront on Biharis as a community, thus making a case for the BJP as ‘outsiders’ in contrast to Bihar’s own man, Nitish Kumar. It was called the ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ debate. Something similar has just happened in West Bengal.


Also read: I worry about 2021 Bengal election. You should too: Yogendra Yadav


BJP gets trapped in ‘beti’ debate 

The Trinamool Congress recently launched a new election slogan in West Bengal: “Bangla nijer meye-kei chaye”. Literally meaning: Bengal wants its own daughter.

Soon after the slogan was launched, Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to it in his Hooghly rally. Accusing the Trinamool government of not implementing the central scheme for tap water, Jal Jeevan Mission, he asked if the daughters of Bengal did not deserve pure water. The BJP has since then gone into concussions over the “beti” question. A pro-BJP channel asked who was Bengal’s real beti, Didi or Modi!

As chief minister Mamata Banerjee transforms from sister (Didi) to daughter (Meye), the BJP is now trying to call her an aunt (Pishi). Referring to her controversial nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the BJP now wants her called ‘bua’ or ‘pishi’ (aunt), putting forth photos of top women leaders of the Bengal BJP and going on overdrive about how the daughters of Bengal are suffering under the TMC’s misrule.

This is a self-goal by the BJP, since the more they refer to the ‘Beti’ slogan, the more they make it work. The more discussion Bengal sees about ‘Beti’, the more they will be reminded of Mamata Banerjee, the fact that she’s a woman, the fact that the BJP does not have a chief ministerial candidate or even a leader worthy of being projected as one. By responding to the ‘Beti’ slogan, the BJP has fallen into a trap.

TMC slogan for 2021 Bengal Assembly Election | Shivam Vij
TMC slogan for 2021 Bengal Assembly Election | Shivam Vij

Also read: With CBI at Mamata’s family doorstep, BJP got what it wanted in Bengal — a dynasty issue


Why sister has become daughter 

Mamata Banerjee has been called Didi forever. In fact, most people call her Didi, not Mamata. The Didi identity is so strong it could well be her real name. Why then has Prashant Kishor turned her into Beti? That too just a month before the election phases begin?

Didi or sister sounds like an elder sibling who’ll look after you, raise you, guide you, and take you forward. This worked for her as a challenger to the Left rule. But now that she’s defending her fort from the BJP, the Beti identity does something else. It seeks to make Bengal voters feel that she is the daughter of Bengal, their own daughter, and thus they need to protect her, they need to look after her. The relationship has been inverted.


Also read: Soviet-era posters to raised fist artwork — BJP using Left symbols to be Bengal ‘insider’


Bengali vs Bahari 

The corollary is that the BJP is not Bengal’s daughter. On the contrary, Bengal’s daughter is under attack from the BJP. Can there be an emotional appeal stronger than the one to protect your own daughter?

That’s a not-so-subtle way of saying the BJP is not Bengali enough to rule Bengal. Like ‘Bihari vs Bahari’ in 2015, this introduces a polarisation on the basis of sub-regional identity. Narendra Modi may be supremely popular in West Bengal as the 2019 Lok Sabha election showed us, but the TMC slogan reminds people that this is an election for Bengal, not for India.

Bengal wants its own daughter — the assertion leaves little room for a national icon like Modi. It makes the search for a Bengali icon a central question. This is why the BJP is having a hard time not responding to the slogan. Whether the BJP responds or ignores it, either way it makes the TMC play its strongest card: Mamata Banerjee.

The author is a contributing editor. Views are personal.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Perhaps if the Commies were still in power, he’d be writing that Bengal needs it own Commies, not the BJP, who are viewed as against the Bengali Commies?

  2. Surely Mamata is the daughter of Bengal, no doubt about it. Obviously, this will strike a emotional link with people. However the voting machines and not ready to correlate with VVPAT slips is a matter of endless debate. It is for Mata Bhawani” to prevail

  3. Beti of Bengal does not look like beti, who will make Bengal proud. Instead Mamata looks like slut having affairs with jihadis and so Bengalis want to dissociate themselves with her.

  4. Didi Mamata has become daughter of Bengal. This was the last call to the voters. Like other Indians in other states in India, regionalism overwhelms nationalism in Bengal too. Afterall, India was a forced union of 500 sub kingdoms. Given a choice, many kingdoms may not have “agreed” to join the union. It was pure regionalism calling the shots then and it continues to do so today. The priority then and now remains the same. It is myself, my family, my cast, my village, my state and finally my country. Note the last rank in priorities. If Jyoti Bassu could survive for 30 years in the past, Didi can surely survive for 12 years today. It is not a pejorative assessment.

  5. India is a federal country. Each state cannot servive if they restrict their belovedness only for state. All the states are parts of country. Require all states to be developed so that our borders are protected.
    Saying Duaghter of Bengal or any state will only fool the sentiments of that state. But on broader side we require a person party corrupt free to run the country. Here only india fascing problems. Now all state citizens pl first think of our country,our soldiers,our borders, waiting enemies in and outside of our country.
    Pl donot fall prey to such..check what their assets prior entering politics and today .
    Today we are moving in a fast developing country. For this running time we have a great PM and we require his honest services. Until all states become PMs controll we will never achieve one vision.
    .

  6. All Daughters are not builder of nation . They may bring misery, death, destruction. Shrupnakha was also daughter of Lanka . Lanka was burnt by Hanumaan ji , all Lankan army vanished, Lanka s Empower defeated. Oh , it is from story of Lord Rama s life , which she or her follower detest. Jai Shri Ram .

  7. Once again the author proves he is good at illogical dreams.
    BJP has already come up with counter slogan, “Yes we want a daughter of Bengal’ and projected a whole slew of Bengali women leaders MPs and Ministers or simply well known faces.

  8. You being an anti BJP journalist this is an entirely biased and shallow article. BJP have it’s own shortcomings in bengal but people are now fed up with Mamta due to lack of development , corruption and appeasement.So basically this slogan means nothing to the people of Bengal apart from media gimmick.

  9. This is a typical lutyens armchair article far from reality. People will vote on issues like massive corruption of TMC, vanishing industries, people forced to migrate outside due to lack of job opportunities , govt exams not being conducted for the last few years, mismanagement/corruption in cyclone reliefs, law & order, TMC’s goondagiri etc.
    Rest of the slogan part is only part of campaign.
    ‘UP ke ladke’ did not work in 2017,neither will this slogan in 2021.

  10. The politically incorrect way:

    So we want to measure our leaders (CMs and PMs and the like ) by how they are called – ddi, dada, beti, beta, ammi etc… we want to believe that our electorate is only so much intelligent that votes can be garnered by calling oneself (by proxies like P Kishore etc..) didi, akka, amoi and so on.

    Why do the media and “experts” and opinion writers consistently demean the intellect of “We the people”?

    Can we have more meaningful opinions please?

  11. Since TMC has no development to show in it’s ten year old regime, it is resorting to such cheap tactics.

  12. The real fight is between 2 “SECULAR LEADERS “ Danga Didi and Akbaruddin

    The fight is for “SECULAR VOTERS” who are in minority now but will soon be majority

    Hindus must vote for a party which will protect their love for science, education and peaceful practice of religion against RIOTERS n PROSELYTISERS.

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