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After SC refuses to deploy central forces in West Bengal, TMC unleashes the ‘Khela’ of violence during Municipal elections

On the day of elections, goons allegedly associated with the Trinamool Congress hurled crude bombs, tampered with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and attacked the candidates and agents belonging to the Opposition parties including BJP, Congress and CPI (M).

On Sunday (February 27), elections in 108 municipalities in 20 districts of West Bengal were marred by incidents of violence, vandalism, assault, and election malpractices. The ‘fraudulent’ elections took place in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s decision to not deploy central armed forces for the civic body polls in the State.

As per reports, elections were conducted in over 2000 wards. A total of 8,160 candidates contested the polls and about 76.51% of eligible 95 lakh voters cast their votes. The polling began at 7 am on Sunday and continued till 5 o’clock in the evening. Elections were not conducted in 103 wards as TMC won most of the seats without any contest.

On the day of elections, goons associated with the Trinamool Congress hurled crude bombs, tampered with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and attacked the candidates and agents belonging to the Opposition parties including BJP, Congress and CPI (M). This was despite the deployment of 44000 police personnel and 135 election observers, including 108 general observers and 10 special observers.

Reportedly, Trinamool Congress supporters attacked independent candidates in Dhulian (Murshidabad district) and Dalkhoola (Uttar Dinajpur district). The police had to resort to firing tear gas shells to pacify the situation. Crude bomb attacks also took place in polling booths in Garulia and Halisahar municipalities. A CPI(M) worker was assaulted in Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas. Left candidates in Barasat and a Congress candidate in Behrampore were also beaten up.

Clashes also broke out in Bhatpara municipality, the bastion of BJP MP Arjun Singh. PTI reported, “In Arambag area of Hooghly district, Left Front candidates were allegedly beaten up by goons affiliated to the TMC, a charge denied by the ruling party…BJP candidate of ward 8, Sanjay Sharma, alleged that the booths in Ramakrishna Mission School were captured by the TMC, a charge the ruling party rubbished,”

“Congress leader Isha Khan Chowdhury alleged that TMC supporters were not allowing the party’s candidate in ward 15 to enter polling station 155. In Jalpaiguri Municipality’s ward number 12, Congress candidate Narayan Chandra Sarkar alleged that he was thrown out of a booth by police while TMC members were campaigning at the same place for their party’s candidate,” the report added.

Journalist Soumyajit Majumder took to Twitter to inform how members of the press were targeted for their objective reporting during the civic body polls. He said, “At least nine journalists of different media houses were beaten up, thrashed and admitted to hospitals while covering irregularities in the civic polls in West Bengal, cameras were broken, mics were snatched and thrown into the drain.”

In another case of election fraud, the presiding officer at polling station 2 of Ward No 21 (Contai Municipality) was forced to sit outside the polling booth.

However, instead of acting against the TMC goons, the police instead detained the BJP candidate of Ward No 20 (Contai Municipality). Suvendu Adhikari informed that the BJP candidate for the ward was molested by Trinamool Congress hoodlums.

Meek response from State Election Commission and police

A senior State Election Commission official tried to downplay the complete breakdown of the law and order situation in West Bengal on Sunday. While speaking to the Press Trust of India, he claimed, “Sporadic incidents of violence were reported. We noted disturbances in a few areas and took action. The overall situation, however, was peaceful.”

“The SEC has become an agency of Trinamool Congress. We think it is high time to ask for the amendment of rules to ensure polling is not reduced to a mockery of democracy,” BJP leader Arjun Singh had said.

State Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had lashed out at State Election Commissioner Saurabh Das for ‘abdicating’ his constitutional responsibility. He had met Das at Raj Bhavan on Monday afternoon.

In a tweet, the West Bengal Governor said, “SEC Shri Saurab Das briefed Guv Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar for over an hour regarding issues connected to municipal poll process.   SEC has been indicated to take all steps to ensure poll fairness and not holding elections to Howrah Municipality is failure of constitutional duty.”

While speaking to The Hindu, the Director-General of Police (DGP) Manoj Malaviya claimed that no ‘major incident of violence’ took place during the elections. Dubbing the civic body polls as ‘peaceful’, he alleged that there were no deaths/ cases of grievous injury but minor stray incidents. “We have carried out 797 preventive arrests and 51 persons were arrested on Sunday on the basis of specific incidents recorded in the day,” he concluded.

BJP calls for ‘bandh’ in West Bengal after violence breaks out during municipal polls

Aggrieved by the sad state of affairs that transpired during the civic body polls on Sunday, the West Bengal unit of the BJP called for a 12-hour statewide bandh on February 28. The saffron party has submitted a comprehensive list of 923 complaints to the State Election Commission.

The call for ‘bandh’ evoked some success, despite the stringent order of the Mamata Banerjee-led-West Bengal government. “The state government is opposed to strikes and bandhs as it disrupts normal life and causes inconvenience to people and affects their livelihood,” the West Bengal government had ordered. It made it compulsory for all government employees to attend offices on Monday.

BJP workers also held demonstrations on the railway track at Hooghly railway station. BJP MLAs Sankar Ghosh, and Anandamoy Barman were arrested for protesting against the election fraud committed by TMC, reported News9live

Congress MP writes to Lok Sabha speaker

On Monday (February 28), Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury fired off a letter to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, complaining about the obstacles in discharging his duties as a Member of Parliament.

“As a local representative, I am supposed to attend to the problems and needs of my constituents. Even if they call me at odd hours, | am duty-bound to visit them, listen to their problems and help them to the best of my abilities,” he wrote.

Screengrab of the letter by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

He further emphasised, “However, the ruling party in West Bengal, directly and indirectly, creates hurdles in the effective discharge of my duties as a public representative. As you are aware municipal election in West Bengal is going on. The ruling party has unleashed a reign of terror and violence in the entire municipal election.”

“The ruling party goons are threatening candidates of other political parties with violence. I am mobbed/ gheraoed and heckled by the TMC goons wherever | go for campaigning or to attend to the problems of my constituents. My movement is completely restricted in West Bengal. The ruling party goons are doing all the violence and nuisance and are restricting my movement in collusion with the local authorities,” lamented Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

Supreme Court bench said no to central forces deployment in West Bengal

On Friday (February 25), the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) party leaders Mousumi Roy and Pratap Banerjee, seeking deployment of central forces in the West Bengal local polls.

The Calcutta High Court had earlier declined to issue directions for the deployment of central forces for the elections to the 108 municipalities of West Bengal. The Supreme Court refused to entertain the petition and upheld the order of the High Court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had interjected, “Your Lordships have decided not to entertain this. But in the Tripura elections matter, the Court had asked if the government could do something. I may submit that we have no problems in deploying the forces”. Rejecting the arguments, Justice Chandrachud had said, “Thank you, Mr Solicitor”.

2021 Post-poll violence orchestrated by TMC

Using violence as an instrument to subdue their political opponents has become a distinctive feature of the TMC rule in West Bengal. Ever since the Mamata Banerjee-led retained power in the state, the persecution of dissenters and opposition workers has only intensified.

In an overwhelming number of such incidents, the victims have been BJP supporters and workers while the accused were said to be the supporters of the TMC party. More than a dozen BJP workers have lost their lives in the post-poll violence that ensued following the victory of the TMC party in the assembly elections.

There were reports that said women in West Bengal were raped, assaulted and, in some cases, even killed, just because they adhered to a different political ideology. Last year, a victim who was raped by the TMC goons in front of her father shared her harrowing ordeal with OpIndia.

She narrated how she was attacked and sexually assaulted by her perpetrators associated with the TMC party. In the aftermath of the assembly election results, TMC goons wreaked havoc, attacking and plundering the houses of their opponents. In one such attack, TMC goons lynched BJP worker Avijit Sarkar to death.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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