After couple of rounds of relatively peaceful polling in Bengal, the third phase brought back old memories of CPIM “activism” in their heydays. This time though the allegations were primarily against ruling party of the state TMC who have promptly rebutted those complaints. Surprisingly TMC got support from Election Commission, which said that voting was broadly peaceful.
Mantra of “peaceful barricading”
The last two phases were held in North Bengal, where TMC doesn’t have any formidable organisation. The third round however covered parts of South Bengal, known as fortress of the ruling party. In the 9 seats under contention many believe by dint of their “activism” TMC is now set to win all. From early morning yesterday complaints started to pour in from places like Sreerampore, Arambagh and Hooghly etc. Opposition parties alleged that TMC was intimidating voters. In Sreerampore, Congress candidate Abdul Mannan even started dharna to protest against strong hand tactics of the ruling party. CPIM have demanded repoll in 825 booths of 8 constituencies and complete re-election in Arambagh. BJP and Congress have also demanded that polls should be again held in booths where votes were “looted” according to them.
Throughout the day T.V channels were busy showing footage of TMC workers “helping” people to vote or virtually “sanitising” the booth of any “external influence”. There were also sporadic reports of scuffle between members of different political parties leaving around 20 people injured. Fortunately there were no major incidents of violence. In many places locals alleged that TMC replaced CPIM’s old tactics of “scientific rigging” with their indigenous “peaceful barricading” where supporters of opposition parties were simply not allowed to come near the booths.
EC plays it safe
Just as news of TMC workers “managing” the elections trickled in, the opposition rushed to register their complaints with the top officials of Election Commission. Special observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh had earlier assured that he knows the medicine of how to conduct peaceful elections. He was surprisingly muted on Wednesday. Rakesh reported in his office after 2P.M, and gave a patient hearing to all the complaints of opposition leaders. But his final assessment was elections were “free and fair” if not peaceful.
State Election Commissioner Sunil Kumar Gupta was far more effusive deeming the third phase of polling with 81.65% votes as free, fair and extremely just. The opposition parties expectedly felt betrayed with EC’s stance. But keeping in mind that there are 23 seats still to be polled, they toned down their rhetoric saying that EC should be more careful in the future. TMC which was involved in bitter acrimony with the Election Commission was expectedly happy with Derek O’Brien saying that the party like a good student is reaping benefits of three years of hard toil.
In the modern days of Television camera, it is highly unlikely voters were looted en masse as opposition alleges. Neither the polls were completely fair. The truth not surprisingly lies somewhere between.
The foot soldiers which CPIM banked on for long have now switched allegiance working for TMC. But the important thing is those cadres or machinery couldn’t stop Left’s downfall when people wanted change. Similarly if majority wants TMC to be punished no amount of barricading would work.
E.C doesn’t have its own mechanism and takes the help of state government employees to conduct polls. Similarly CRPF works coordinating with state police. It is bit naïve to expect miracles from E.C or CRPF keeping in mind these limitations. Also CPIM leaders with their chequered record crying hoarse about “loot of democracy” doesn’t evoke much sympathy. Finally notwithstanding few transgressions, it is the will of people that will get reflected in the end results.