WB Polls: State Forces Turn a Blind Eye to TMC’s Lumpenism
Women show  their voter cards before casting votes at a polling booth during the state assembly elections in Kharagpur. (Photo: PTI)
Women show their voter cards before casting votes at a polling booth during the state assembly elections in Kharagpur. (Photo: PTI)

WB Polls: State Forces Turn a Blind Eye to TMC’s Lumpenism

Taking advantage of the passive role adopted by the central paramilitary forces and Election Commission officials, the ruling TMC workers resorted to widespread terror in all 31 assembly constituencies that went to poll in West Medinipur, Bankura and Bardhaman districts.

The opposition alleged that the ruling party was engaged in large-scale rigging and booth-capturing in constituencies like Pingla, Sabang, Keshpur and Garbeta in West Medinipur and Sonamukhi in Bankura.

CPI(M) and Congress workers were attacked and mercilessly beaten up in a number of areas. BJP workers were not spared either. They were attacked at Pandaveswar in Bardhaman district and Kharagpur in West Medinipur. At Jamuria in Bardhaman and Sabang in West Medinipur, clashes took place between the TMC and the opposition alliance of the Congress and the Left.

There are allegations that hundred of polling agents were beaten up and driven out of the booths by TMC musclemen and the central forces did nothing to prevent that. The scale of the wrongdoing was such that more than 500 complaints were received by the Election Commission within three hours of polling. By the end of the polling the number of complaints went up to more than 1,400.

Snapshotclose

  • TMC workers resorted to widespread terror in all 31 assembly constituencies that went to poll in West Medinipur, Bankura and Bardhaman districts.
  • The opposition alleged that the ruling party was engaged in large-scale rigging and booth-capturing.
  • CPI(M) and Congress workers were attacked and mercilessly beaten up in a number of areas; BJP workers were not spared either.
  • Suryakanta Mishra, CPI(M) state secretary and candidate, was gheraoed and heckled by TMC workers but state forces did not intervene.
  • An unperturbed Mishra said that these were all signs of nervousness of the ruling party.

State Forces Turn a Blind Eye to Heckling

The most bizarre incident took place at Narayangarh, West Medinipur where Suryakanta Mishra, the CPI(M) state secretary and candidate in that constituency, was time and again gheraoed and heckled by TMC workers but the state police and Central forces did not intervene.

Mishra visited some booths after reports of irregularities. At one place he was heckled by TMC cadres while entering a booth. At two other places he was heckled within 50 metres of the booth. On all these occasions the TMC cadres tried to raise political issues berating the CPI(M) leader.

By late afternoon, when the CPI(M) workers went in large numbers to another booth and resisted the TMC workers, the police and central forces became active and dispersed them.

Ashok Ganguly, a retired judge of Supreme Court and now a member of Save Democracy Forum, said that this was a gross violation of Election Code of Conduct. The TMC workers had no business obstructing the opposition leader and raising political issues in front of a booth. That amounts to campaigning while polling is underway.

Two groups clash outside a polling  booth during State Assembly polls in Jamuria, West Bengal. (Photo: PTI)
Two groups clash outside a polling booth during State Assembly polls in Jamuria, West Bengal. (Photo: PTI)

Mishra Attributes the TMC’s Lumpenism to Nerves

Suryakanta Mishra was unperturbed. Later, he said that these were all signs of nervousness on the part of the ruling party.

They have definite reasons to be agitated. They were trying to disturb polling in 23 booths, but after I intervened that number was reduced to 4-5 only.
Suryakanta Mishra

He also felt that despite the tactics adopted by the ruling party, they were not successful in Bardhaman district and in parts of Bankura. The people resisted them. At the same time, he said the Election Commission had not performed its duty in some areas.

While Mishra was mild in his criticism of the Election Commission, the other opposition leaders were up in arms against the Commission’s role. The Congress staged a protest dharna in front of the state EC office at Kolkata. BJP, Congress and CPI(M) leaders led separate delegations to the EC’s office to lodge their complaints.

Voters  stand in a long queue to cast their votes at a polling station during the 2nd part of 1st phase West Bengal Assembly Elections in Bankura. (Photo: PTI)
Voters stand in a long queue to cast their votes at a polling station during the 2nd part of 1st phase West Bengal Assembly Elections in Bankura. (Photo: PTI)

Election Commission Under Scanner

In all these complaints the common refrain was that the central forces did nothing to prevent violence and terror unleashed by the ruling party goons. Also, it was mentioned that while the Chief Election Commissioner had assured the voters that they would be given protection, none was offered.

Even the presiding officers were so terrified that they turned a blind eye to the wrongdoings of the ruling party. Case in point is Sohrab Ali, a former MLA and noted criminal who has been convicted of stealing railway properties and sentenced to two years of jail. Now he is out on bail.

He accompanied his wife , who is the TMC candidate in Ranigunj, inside the booths and supervised the voting there in the full knowledge of the presiding officer. Later, the presiding officer of the booth admitted that Sohrab Ali had no right to enter the booth where he was not listed as voter, yet he did nothing.

By the end of the second day of first phase polling, a pattern slowly emerged that serves a chilling reminder of what happened in 2014 general elections in Bengal. The role of the Election Commission is once again under scrutiny and it has been criticised for not keeping its promises.

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