Images from the historic ‘No Vote to BJP’ rally in Kolkata

  • March 12, 2021

On 10 March, 2021, just a month before the crucial eight-phase assembly election kicks off in West Bengal, Kolkata witnessed an unusual rally. Massive rallies and demonstrations are not new to the city. Only in the past two weeks, the city has witnessed two massive assemblies at Brigade Parade ground, attended by lakhs of supporters of CPI(M) and BJP respectively. The rally on March 10 would seem insignificant, when compared to these two, in terms of the scale of participation.


However, it was the political essence of the rally that made it historic and significant. The rally on  March 10, organized around the slogan ‘No vote to BJP,’ on the eve of the crucial assembly election in the state, brought in many democratic forces and people from varied sections under a common slogan to take on the BJP – the political front of RSS.


‘No Vote To BJP’ slogan was coined by several activists belonging to the various radical left groups and social movements, human rights, students, youths and cultural activists in West Bengal. Alarmed at the prospect of BJP seizing political power in the state, the activists came together and after intense discussions, decided to form a forum named ‘Bengal Against Fascists RSS-BJP’ under the overarching slogan ‘No Vote To BJP’, at a public convention held on 4 January. The aim was to organize an all-out campaign amongst the masses, regarding the danger of a ‘fascist’ party taking over power in the state. The idea was to tell the people, angry with the shepherd, that why they should not bring in the wolves. In doing so, it also wanted to attract attention to the fact that the institutions of parliamentary democracy are often used to usher in fascist regimes. The forum had earlier announced that its anti-fascists campaign all over the state in the first phase will culminate in a rally on 10 March in Kolkata.


The forum, however, has been the subject of much debate ever since it has been formed.  A section of the left called it an example of ‘revisionist’ politics, which aims to reduce the anti-fascist struggle to mere vote-politics, where people are being called upon to vote for other ruling class parties, to electorally defeat the BJP. But the most vicious attack on the campaign, so far, has been launched by the CPI(M) cadres on social media platforms. As the slogan ‘NO Vote To BJP’ began to become more popular amongst the masses, and the campaign started to take roots, the attacks became more vociferous and toxic, often leading to verbal slugfest by both sides.


Interestingly, the slogan ‘‘NO Vote To BJP’’ has been endorsed by Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which has been spearheading the peasants’ struggle against the farm laws, through a continuous and collective congregation on the borders of Delhi, a protest that been going on for more than 100 days and had by now spread to many other states. The farmers’ unions have recently announced their decision to tour the five states, which will hold the elections in the coming months, with the clear cut message asking people to not vote for the BJP. So, what started as a slogan for campaign by an insignificant group of individuals, has by now crystallised into an all India slogan for all democratic forces trying to stop the corporate backed fascist jaggarnauth. The importance and political significance of a merely five-six thousands peoples’ rally in Kolkata on 10 March, attended by farm leaders from Punjab, Haryana and Odisha, should be judged in this political context. 

As we write this, #NoVoteToBJP slogan is trending now as no. 1 on Twitter. The Kisan leaders are in the state holding Maha Panchayats asking people to defeat BJP in the upcoming assembly elections. This  shows how a tiny bunch of people, armed with only a powerful political slogan, determined to reach out to the masses can provide a counter-narrative to the dominant fascist one, bringing the discussions about fascism from the digital world to the real and material one.


Below is a collection of  images from the historic ‘No Vote To BJP’ rally captured by photographer Bijoy Chowdhury.




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