Vol. XLI No. 21 May 21, 2017

West Bengal: Another Farce in the Name of Elections

From our Special Correspondent

THAT the opposition parties winning even one or two wards in municipal elections is ‘banned’ in West Bengal has been proved once again on May 14, when seven municipalities went to polls. As four of them were in the hills and paramilitary forces were deployed during polling, the voting there was peaceful. On the contrary, widespread violence was reported from all the three towns in the plains that went to vote – Pujali in the South 24-Parganas, Domkal in Murshidabad and Raiganj in the North Dinajpur.

Marauding bike-borne miscreants, bombs, firing, broken EVMs and panicked voters remained the recurring scenes throughout the day in Pujali, Domkal and Raiganj. As usual, the TMC armed gangs took over three towns with the help of police and state administration and within hours they chased away polling agents of opposition parties, the Left and the Congress. In most cases, TMC mobilised miscreants from outside.

Election officials cowered in fear and fled polling booths at some places. Police themselves became targets as bombs and stones were hurled to intimidate opposition workers. The entire state could see this farce live on television channels.

In Kolkata, the Left Front and Congress supporters resorted to a road-block and sit-in-demonstration in front of the election commission's office, alleging miserable failure to conduct free and fair elections. State Election Commissioner AK Singh was so blatantly partisan or scared about his boss that he refused to meet the opposition leaders. CPI(M) lodged an FIR against him in a Kolkata police station.

CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Mishra demanded cancellation of the entire poll process.  "We want the elections to be countermanded as the ruling party has unleashed terror at all places where elections are being held," he said.

"In Domkal, motorcycle-borne outsiders attacked our workers and voters with bombs and pistols. The local administration looked the other way.

"Since morning, elections have been a farce. Three of our workers were injured when they were fired upon by Trinamool-backed miscreants. Another worker suffered broken limbs," said Mishra.

He alleged that all polling booths were captured by the Trinamool supporters in Raiganj and Pujali. The polling agents of the Congress and Left Front were driven out and electronic voting machines damaged. Even journalists were not spared, he said.

 "But we have no illusion that fresh elections will be impartial. This shows it is not possible to hold proper polls so long as the Trinamool is in power," the CPI(M)  leader said categorically.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury was in the state on the day of elections. “Democracy is being murdered in Bengal”, Yechury told media persons.

The results were practically foretold. TMC won all but two seats in Domkal, won 24 out of 27 in Raiganj and 13 out of 16 in Pujali. In Domkal, in many wards CPI(M) and Congress candidates got ‘10’ or ‘26’ votes while TMC got more than 3000, showing the extent of the rigging. The same story was reported from Raiganj where opposition parties got meager amounts in areas they are stronger. Even after this brazen show of muscle power, TMC forced the winning opposition candidates to declare their ‘switch over’ to the TMC. This is to complete the murder of democracy!

However, there is a footnote to the latest mockery of elections in West Bengal. State Election Commission announced re-polling in six booths only. The results showed that the TMC was defeated in five of them.