The Trinamool Congress has recorded a clean sweep in the civic polls for all the four municipal corporations of Siliguri, Bidhannagar, Asansol, and Chandernagore. While news reports are replete with stories of the TMC painting West Bengal green, what these reports craftily hide are the stories of wide-spread violence, intimidation and electoral fraud by TMC cadre targeting opposition workers and ordinary voters.
The Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari and MLA Agnimitra Paul have been sharing various videos and instances of violence and hooliganism in the poll-bound areas on and before the day of voting. Hence it did not come as a surprise that the reigning party had a cakewalk win with no real challengers on many seats. It was a repeat of the 2016 Panchayat elections where TMC won one-third of seats ‘unopposed’.
TMC won Budge Budge even before the polling had taken place. While the magic figure was 11, 12 out of 20 seats were won uncontested as no candidates from opposing parties dared to submit their nominations till the deadline for submission of nomination papers.
“The TMC is constantly threatening our candidates. No one is daring to step out of one’s house. Our candidates were not even allowed to submit nominations. Only two have been able to submit a nomination,” said Vice-President of the BJP’s Diamond Harbor organizing district, Sabita Chowdhury.
The ruling party has been accused of vandalizing houses of BJP candidates in wards 7 and 18 of Rampurhat, Birbhum. BJP candidate from ward no 6, Dipti Dhiwar said that TMC-supported miscreants had launched attacks and vandalism on her residence on Thursday, February 10. Reports surfacing from Wards 18 and 9 suggest that a BJP candidate and his grandfather were assaulted and their houses were torn down. Miscreants had also appeared at Ward no 17’s BJP candidate Dinesh Mandal’s residence to hurl insults at him and throw bricks at his house shattering the windows.
In one of the most gruesome attacks, BJP MLA of Siliguri Dr. Shankar Ghosh who was also a candidate of Siliguri Municipality Ward no 36 was beaten with bamboos and chairs. He was smothered and dragged by a muffler while the mob continued to assault him. This took place inside the polling booth and in front of the police on Saturday, February 13.
Attacks were also launched at the house of Rampurhat Municipality Ward no 2’s independent candidate Anwar Hossain; he was threatened to withdraw his nomination.
Similar allegations were levelled by Akhtar Hossain of the Communist Party. “Everyone in Budge Budge knows about the post-poll terrorism. As candidates were not given any security, nomination papers were not submitted in many wards. The TMC wants to silence the voices of the opposition by threatening them,” he complained.
The CPM has also highlighted that their female panchayat member, Renuka Nair, a resident of the Bhadrapara area of Radhakantpur was abducted by TMC’s ground level activists on Saturday morning. Renuka’s son narrated that three women had shown up at their house at 7:30 AM asking for medicine from his mother who also works as an ASHA worker. They then flashed arms and bombs at them, dragged Renuka inside an auto and fled.
Renuka’s niece has identified the names of the men in the gang as Taj Mahal, Mohiuddin, Omprakash Mamud Ali Fakir, but couldn’t identify the women who were at the door.
This panchayat has 14 members out of which 9 are from the CPIM. “This is the only panchayat in the district that belongs to the CPM. But the TMC wants to take it over by force. One of our members has been abducted and her life is in danger. We are going to the police. If we do not get her back, we will launch a bigger movement in Raydighi,” stated former state minister and CPM leader Kanti Gangopadhyay.
Congress’ female candidate in Ward no 2 of Behrampur Municipality, Tumpa Sarkar said that TMC has been pressurising her to withdraw her nomination but as she refused to cower down, the ruling party has resorted to violence. Pinaki shared that while her husband was returning home on the night of February 9, the street lights near their house were turned off. They noticed a few young men loitering around in the dark and soon as her entered the house, the men started hollering from outside. They fired 4 rounds of bullets at him when he opened the front door to check. He slammed the door shut and had a narrow escape. Though the police were immediately called in and a written complaint was filed, the attackers are on the loose.
This is not the first time Congress candidates in the state have pointed fingers at the TMC for their unfair ways to manipulate the polls. On Tuesday, February 8, the chairman of the Congress election committee in Kanthi, Masood Mallick had informed that the Congress candidate from Ward no 20, Ujjwala Sau was abducted on her way to file her nomination on Monday.
Masood had rushed to the sub-divisional governor’s office and made a formal complaint with the Kanthi police and the Kanthi sub-divisional magistrate. Ujjwala was released an hour after the complaint was made and was too scared to nominate herself as a candidate after that. Suspecting the TMC’s hand in the plot, Mallick said, “Those who hold the power here are the ones wanting to silence the opposition in this way.” It is shocking that the Congress candidates have not found any support from the Congress headquarters after the attack on them.
Representatives of the TMC from all these areas have unanimously rubbished all these allegations and shrugged off claims of them being involved in these instances of violence. National media maintains silence on these incidents while lauding Banerjee’s “big victory”.