Panchayat Elections in West Bengal TMC Sweep in the Shadow of Terror

The political balance in West Bengal which started changing in favour of the Trinamul Congress (TMC) in the Panchayat Elections, 2008, seems to have completed its circuit in the Panchayat Elections, 2013. The TMC has secured clear majority in 13 Zilla Parishads as against 1 each by the Left Front and the Congress. North Dinajpur and Malda are still hung. In North Dinajpur, Left Front has an edge, while in Malda, the LF and the Congress are evenly poised. The comparative results of 2008 and 2013 panchayat elections so demonstrates the pronounced real change of balance that has taken place in the countryside.

The above results show that barring a few districts, TMC has spread its tentacles throughout the state. The Congress had fought the 2008 elections in alliance with the TMC, but this time round it contested independently. It is the CPI(M)/Left Front which has emerged as the biggest loser, losing further ground since the 2011 Assembly elections.

The sweeping victory of the TMC has come in the shadow of massive terror and violence. The state Election Commission, the state administration and the central forces—all failed to ensure free and fair exercise of the democratic right of the people to cast their votes. The police and the administration were reduced to mere tools of the ruling party.

The terror and violence was particularly pronounced in areas where the CPI(M) too had earned tremendous notoriety for resorting to similar tactics in the past. This is especially true for districts like Bardhaman and Hooghly and districts with significant tribal presence like West and East Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia. Since the beginning of the election campaign, a large number of lumpen elements riding on motor bikes created havoc in favour of the TMC in different areas and the highest leadership as well as the ministers of the TMC openly patronized them. One of the most disturbing features was that about 50 per cent of the 50-55 victims of the incidents of poll violence were Muslims.

Though CPM fared relatively better in North and South 24 Parganas, Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur, it faced a complete disaster in the tribal dominated areas, particularly the Jangalmahal, Purulia, Bankura etc, which used to be its stronghold till recently. CPM has been able to win only the Jalpaiguri Zilla parishad all by its own strength. The results clearly show that mass grievance against the CPM is still very pronounced even after more than two years of TMC rule and despite numerous instances of TMC terror and anti-people activities.

Another noticeable feature of this year’s results is growing disillusionment against the TMC rule within the Muslim community. Apart from the TMC’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission, TMC’s veiled proximity and hobnobbing with the BJP has created widespread apprehension among Muslims. The withdrawal of the BJP candidate in the Howrah by-poll and the eventual marginal victory of the TMC candidate must have reinforced this apprehension and revived the memories of the TMC’s past association with the BJP.

Inner-party squabbles and violent group clashes have also been rampant within the TMC in many places. A good number of dissident TMC candidates contested in Birbhum, many of whom succeeded in winning and calling the shots.

We succeeded in wresting the Napara-2 Gram Panchayat in Nadia from the congress by winning 7 out of 12 wards. This has been one of the old centres of our struggle for decades and here we also successfully waged a land struggle recently. Apart from that, we consistently exposed the corruption and nepotism in the Congress-led panchayat. We won one Panchayat Samity seat also in this area and were defeated by a very slender margin in another. We also won 6 wards in Hooghly district, 2 in Burdwan and 1 in Murshidabad. The degree of our success is clearly very limited. The scale of our rural work needs to be rapidly expanded if we have to intervene effectively in the present situation, offer resistance to the TMC and channelize the demoralization among Left ranks and disillusionment among the common people towards a revival of the Left movement in the state.

Liberation Archive