TMC ‘Sweeps’ Democracy in Bengal

Debasish Chakraborty in Kolkata

LOOK at some broad figures:

On August 13, elections to seven municipalities including Durgapur Corporation took place in West Bengal.  There were 146 wards in total. TMC won four of them without contest. Out of the rest 142, TMC won 138 wards. In Durgapur, a traditional strong base of the Left and in Haldia, TMC won all the wards. They got 72 per cent votes in seven municipalities. TMC got 85 per cent votes in Haldia. In many wards of Haldia, Durgapur, Nalhati and Coopers’ Camp, TMC received over 90 per cent votes.  

To a section of media, this is a ‘clean sweep’ by the TMC.  Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself has expressed ‘joy’, claiming that the opposition has failed to get ‘even 1 per cent votes’.  The media, particularly in Bengal, has  restrained themselves from either reporting the events on the election day or analysing such a record-breaking victory which surpassed everything the state has seen so far. Who takes risks? Some have just written between the lines, ‘TMC has captured/wrested victory’ in some seats.

Long before the election day, these municipalities, particularly Durgapur and Haldia witnessed organised terror by the ruling party. They threatened opposition candidates, coercing them to withdraw, or forcing them not to come out for campaign. In Haldia, houses of CPI(M) candidates including that of MLA Tapashi Mondal were attacked. In some wards, CPI(M) candidates were given fatwa that no one would be allowed to accompany them in the door-to-door campaign. Same things happened in Durgapur. Houses of four candidates were attacked, rallies were attacked, TMC gangs moved in the city asking people not to go to polling booths. Days before the election, CPI(M) offices were attacked, including Ashish-Jabbar Bhaban, one of the citadels of working class movement in the steel city. Despite everything, Left parties campaigned in Haldia, Durgapur, Panskura and the discontent against the ruling party was quite palpable.

Ominous signs were there that TMC would organise a rampage in Durgapur and Haldia. In Durgapur, hundreds of TMC workers were mobilised from other areas and other districts. They were kept in hotels and lodges. Pandals were erected to feed them. Bike borne squads from Raniganj, Jamuria, Asansol, Birbhum district, even from Jharkhand, freely roamed and started attacking CPI(M) workers, spreading terror among people. Police were either mute spectators or active collaborators. Citizens from Durgapur appealed to the Kolkata High Court to intervene for a free and fair election. The court directed the state administration, the state election commission and the police to take concrete measures which were virtually disobeyed. In fact, the court has issued notices to all of them after the elections as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be started against them. The state election commission has played a pliant role to ruling party dictates and remained silent in the open murderous attacks on democracy.

In Durgapur, on the day of elections, thousands of TMC workers blocked roads towards polling booths, obstructed people from going to booths, forcibly entered booths and cast votes in hundreds. Many Left polling agents struggled hard to resist but were evicted. There were some clashes and initial physical resistance but police helped the ruffians and joint operation of police and criminals reigned over.  In Haldia, criminals were brought from various parts of East and West Midnapore including Nandigram and Keshpur. Hardened criminals and armed gangs chased away voters and opposition workers and garnered 85 per cent votes. In both cases, voters became frustrated, dejected, helpless and too afraid to come in the streets.

Now, look at some other exemplary voting figures which expose this farce.

In Durgapur, in Ward no 1, TMC got 12,168 out of total 13,460 votes. In Ward no 2, TMC got 3,001 out of 3,462. In Ward no 8, TMC got 7,485 out of 8,200; in Ward no 15 TMC got 7,096 out of 7,969; in Ward no 18, TMC got 3,443 out of 4,175; in Ward no 36 TMC got 3,115 out of 4,785.

In Durgapur, TMC won all 43 wards. In 2016 assembly election, they won only three wards and were defeated in both the assembly seats from the city.

In Haldia, In Ward no 8, TMC got 3,584 out of 3,751 votes. In this ward, CPI(M) candidate and MLA Tapashi Mondal got only 101 votes, BJP candidate 56 votes and INC candidate 10 votes. Such was the extent of terror that Mondal herself was not allowed to vote and still the election process was declared valid! In Ward no 3, TMC got 4,926 votes out of 5,363, CPI(M) candidate got 188 votes. In Ward no 5, TMC got 3,224 out of 3,703 votes, CPI(M) candidate got 189 votes. In Ward no 7, TMC got 3,517 out  of 3,712 , CPI(M) candidate got 195 votes. In Haldia too, TMC won all 29 wards.

Left Front chairman Biman Basu while denouncing the vitiated election has urged the civil society of West Bengal to ponder on how the democratic rights of the people would be defended in future.

In Durgapur, thousands have come out in the streets after the declaration of results and demanded cancellation of the farcical election and re-election under the supervision of the judiciary. 

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