INDIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS ARE NOT particularly known for their parliamentary behaviour. But what unfolded during the swearing-in ceremony of members of the seventeenth Lok Sabha this year was truly exceptional. Throughout the proceedings, the treasury benches heckled elected representatives from the opposition with Hindu-majoritarian slogans. Most Muslim members of parliament responded to the frenetic sloganeering of “Jai Sri Ram” and “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” with invocations of Allah. Leaders of the All India Trinamool Congress, however, introduced a new twist: “Jai Sri Ram” was countered with “Jai Ma Kali” and Sanskrit verses invoking the divine mother.
The Trinamool Congress managed to win a majority of West Bengal’s Lok Sabha seats this time, despite suffering heavy losses to a newly resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party in the state. Under the leadership of the current chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, the party came to power in West Bengal in 2011, defeating the Left Front, the longest surviving democratically elected communist-led regime in world history. After 34 years of continuous rule, the Left Front government was mired in controversy, especially over land-acquisition policies favouring corporate capital. Banerjee’s election strategy championed the causes of the rural poor, appropriating much of left-wing rhetoric that still had considerable public legitimacy. In less than ten years, there seems to have occurred a decisive change in political discourse; Ram and Kali were the choices on offer in the 2019 election.