Why ex-communists are joining Modi’s BJP in India’s West Bengal

Kumaresh Adhikari became a political activist much before turning 18 – the age when you can vote in an Indian election.

In his teens, he would plaster the walls in his village in India’s eastern West Bengal state with posters of the party he believed in as he mobilised more activists to join the ranks.The reasons behind the trend are multifold: desperation to protect themselves from attacks by TMC workers; fatigue after decades of CPM dominance; little potential for growth in a party seen as redundant; and, most importantly, the Hindu supremacist campaign run by the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in the state.

 

Inspired by the rise of Nazism in Europe, the RSS was formed in 1925 and aims to create an ethnic Hindu state in India by denying other minorities, mainly Muslims, their political rights.

After their induction into the BJP, many former CPM workers Al Jazeera talked to in West Bengal said they undertook a training programme conducted by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a far-right RSS affiliate accused of attacking Muslims and Christians across the country, to help them make the ideological shift.

The fresh BJP recruits said they were told by the VHP about the importance of “prioritising Hindus” and how Muslims were involved in the smuggling of cows, which many Hindus consider sacred.

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