Book Review: Mission Bengal – A Saffron Experiment

From a political party with no existence in bengal politics until recently in 2013 to sweeping nearly half of the West Bengal’s 42 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emerged not as a political party in Bengal but as the only most powerful opposition which can challenge the ruling Trinamool Congress.

Released on 30th September 2020, ‘Mission Bengal: A Saffron Experiment’ by journalist Snigdhendu Bhattacharya documents this unprecedented rise of the BJP in West Bengal and the shift of the political sentiment of most of the people of the state from ‘Laal Salaam’ to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in less than a decade.

As in the words of the Author Snigdhendu Bhattacharya, who says, “Mission Bengal narrates how Mamata Banerjee’s attempts to reduce the opposition to insignificance in the state backfired, how the saffron camp’s push for Hindutva triggered Bengali entho-linguistic sentiments and how allegations of corruption created a strong wave of anti-incumbency against the state’s ruling party that may eventually play a more crucial role than the communal polarisation. From the historical background of Hindutva in Bengal to a ringside view of the politics during the Mamata Banerjee regime, this book tries to offer a comprehensive understanding of what transpired in Bengal since Narendra Modi rose at the national level.”

Now, with Assembly election is drawing closer in West Bengal, the visibility is becoming clear day by day, with many high-profile Trinamool Congress rebel like Suvendu Adhikari and others coming to the BJP’s fold indicates chances of its forming government in Bengal in 2021 have increased considerably while the Left, congress who once ruled the state for decades, has now been relegated to the margins.

The book also analyses, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s course-correction with the help of strategist Prashant Kishor. The book also traces the developments in the historical context, rise of Hindu nationalism and Muslim separatism in the 19th century, Partition and its effect and later impact of developments in Bangladesh, influence of Leftist ideals on the mind of the Bengali people and the demographic changes in the state over the past few decades.

As Swati Chopra, Executive Editor of HarperCollins India, rightly puts, “The West Bengal assembly elections will be the most keenly anticipated state elections of 2021. A major reason for this is the phenomenal rise of the BJP in the state in the last few years, virtually rendering the contest into a two-party one between itself and the Trinamool. This fascinating transformation of West Bengal’s politics – ‘from Lal Salaam to Jai Shri Ram’ – is deftly documented in Mission Bengal. The information in this book will surprise the most astute political analyst and will be a valuable resource for readers who want to know more about one of the most politically volatile states in India today.

Book: Mission Bengal: A Saffron Experiment | Author: Snigdhendu Bhattacharya| Publisher: HarperCollins| Pages: 254 | Price: INR 599/-