May 12, 2024

West Bengal: BJP Bubble Bursts in the Third Phase

Subinoy Moulik

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THE third phase of polling in Bengal, which took place on May 7, involved a total of four seats –  Jangipur, Murshidabad, Malda North and Malda South. According to unrevised estimates, out of the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Malda and Murshidabad, the Murshidabad Lok Sabha constituency received the highest voter turnout – 76.49 per cent. Another Lok Sabha constituency in this district, Jangipur, polled 72.13 per cent. 73.30 per cent voted in Malda North and 73.68 per cent in Malda South. The Left-Congress candidates were the most prominent in this phase, and people courageously exercised their right to vote despite obstacles and intimidation tactics by Trinamool. This is a significant development in West Bengal, where electoral violence is a common occurrence. From Murshidabad to Malda-South, no strong-arm tactics of Trinamool could change this reality. 

For years, Murshidabad polls had become notoriously synonymous with unrest, bloodshed, bombing and musket shots often leading to loss of lives. In the recent panchayat elections, there were numerous instances of booth capturing, snatching of ballot boxes, ballot papers and other election frauds. For years, Murshidabad polls were synonymous with unrest and violence, but this time people stood up for their electoral rights ignoring the threats of the Trinamool and the non-cooperation of the police. There are many places where people could vote after 12 years. They were not allowed to vote during the interim period thanks to the incompetence of the State Election Commission, the shameless servility of the police to their political masters and the unbridled thuggery of the Trinamool Party. This fight was literally led from the front by the Congress-backed CPI(M) candidate in the Murshidabad constituency, the Party's state secretary Md Salim.

Two specific features of the day's events deserve mention. Firstly, the polls were held without any major violence, despite concerns about ensuring peaceful polls. This is a testament to the Left's call for peace and the people's response to it. Secondly, there was no noticeable presence of the BJP in these four constituencies, indicating that the media hype about BJP is not as substantial as it appears.


In spite of everything, it is an indubitable fact that it is impossible for   elections to be 'absolutely' free and fair in Bengal as long as Trinamool remains in governance. Although there were no major incidents of violence, Trinamool’s hooliganism was in full swing in many areas of Murshidabad. The police remained inactive as usual.

Throughout the day, Md Salim was active in various areas of the Murshidabad Lok Sabha constituency to force the central forces and the Election Commission to take action to prevent Trinamool’s hooliganism, its attempts to prevent voters from reaching the booths, and appointment of “fake” polling agents. Salim told reporters at the end of the poll that voters were intimidated, threatened and prevented from casting votes owing to  the combined efforts of some local Trinamool-backed miscreants  and of course some police officers. This happened sparsely in some segments of his constituency, namely, Domkal and Karimpur and Jalangi, and in several places of Raninagar, Hariharpara and   Murshidabad. In spite of such incidents, people were strong and determinedly cast their votes. At some places he had to intervene in person, Salim said.  He alleged that at one road intersection, a group of miscreants had assembled to prevent voters from going to the booth. A photograph of Abhishek Banerjee was hanging behind them some feet away. When the local people complained to the police, the police told them to go and lodge a written complaint at the police station if they felt the need. All this was happening, Salim said, within 200m of the polling station.

In the press meet, Salim also said, “Voters were being intimidated by showing weapons from the house of a Trinamool leader in Karimpur. Local police did nothing, and then people were able to vote only after central forces were persuaded to take action against the miscreants. In Hariharpara, our polling agent was beaten up and thrown out. I got the news and rescued him and put him back in the booth. I am a candidate, but they even tried to stop me from entering the booth. Mamata Banerjee is addressing such big issues in public meetings every day but has failed to teach her party workers that candidates and their election agents can enter all the booths on polling day”.

Elaborating his complaint about fake polling agents in the booths, Salim said, “Earlier people had seen fake degrees of chief minister and prime minister, fake vaccines, fake officers, in this election we saw fake polling agents. After intimidating our agents   the previous night, they forged their documents and put fake signatures, and sat in the booths as our polling agents. We have caught such fakes in several places and handed them over to the police. Otherwise there would have been mob lynching. This time, we have managed to appoint agents in almost all the booths. In some places they had to overcome Trinamool’s hooliganism to enter the booths. Interestingly, Trinamool could not provide polling agents in many places. They had assumed that the CPI(M) would not be able to appoint agents.”


In Malda, despite instigations by Trinamool-BJP, polling for the two constituencies went off without any major disturbances, with over 73 per cent polling recorded in both constituencies. Left Front and Congress workers defended the booths against the muscle-flexing tactics of Trinamool and the BJP. After the polling ended, unrest spread at Habibpur in Malda North due to protests against the police's tear gas and lathicharge operation.

Residents of Radhakantapur village in Habibpur boycotted voting due to poor roads and lack of an effective transport system. The vote boycott was peaceful until Trinamool forces brought in fake voters to cast proxy votes. This angered the villagers, leading to a confrontation with the police. Tear gas shells were fired to disperse the gathering. The villagers alleged that the police even opened fire. No one from BJP or Trinamool was seen in the area. Realising that things have got out of hand they scooted away. 

CPI(M) Malda district secretary Ambar Mitra reacted strongly to the whole incident and said, “You know, this is not something new. Earlier also in Malda, villagers have called for a poll boycott for various local demands. Democracy entails that opportunity. Therefore, how can the administration walk on the path of coercion? Why were the residents of other areas brought in as proxy voters? Why were the protesting villagers beaten? In fact, Trinomool has realised that they will have a miserable situation in both seats in Malda. The BJP is also worried about the united fight put up by the Left and the Congress in both the constituencies.”

Earlier in the morning, a different mood was seen in Harishchandrapur during the polling. In Talgachi village of Mashaldah gram panchayat under Harishchandrapur PS, CPI(M) and Congress workers gathered on the road  a certain distance away from the booth and raised slogans like ''Job thief Trinamool down, down", communal BJP down, down'. More importantly, the common villagers also joined in the slogan shouting. CPI(M) and Congress workers said that this time there was no Trinamool voter in the village.  All the votes were to go in favour of Left-supported Congress candidate  Mostaque Alam. "Our real fight is against BJP. The entire village is united in this fight", they said.

 Harishchandrapur Block No. 2 Khanta Primary School again witnessed temporary tension on this day. Trinamool was accused of casting false votes. Officials of the administration rushed to the spot and the proxy voting stopped.  In Chandmani gram panchayat area of Ratua-1 block, there were complaints of bombing against Trinamool since morning. Villagers said CPI(M) and Congress voters were not being allowed to reach the booth. Bombing continued on the street in front of the police. In Sujapur and Manikchak too, Trinamool sporadically tried to stir up trouble inside booths in village areas. In two places, agents of Congress and CPI (M) were thrown out in the morning. But even then at the end of the day Trinamool workers looked disappointed. Isha Khan Chowdhury, the candidate of Malda South constituency, said that the voting was done largely in a peaceful manner. Trinamool had resorted to cheating even two days before the polls. They had published a fake letter in Rahul Gandhi's name claiming that Rahul told Congress workers in Bengal to vote for Trinamool. "People are going to rebuff this fraud at the ballot machine", he said.



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