West Bengal Assembly Elections 2016

Bardhaman’s sanguinary tales

Ashish Saha of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had been pradhan of Shyamsundar in Raina-1 block of Bardhaman district from 2008 to 2013. Today, by his own admission, he is not politically active. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he says, but, when pressed, adds, “I never had a problem as the people’s representative. Then, I lost in 2013 and in 2014, everything changed. We had been in power for 34 years: I suppose people always hanker for something new.” He shrugs his shoulders and goes back inside.

It is a sweltering hot afternoon, but the lush paddy fields amid which Shyamsundar lies are an unbelievable shade of emerald green — this village lies on the flood-prone, alluvial plains between the Damodar and the Dwarakeswar rivers. It is hard to believe that this area has been bloodied over the past few years by CPI(M)-Trinamool clashes and, of late, by internecine battles within the Trinamool.

In another part of Shyamsundar, people explain the reasons for Mr. Saha’s reticence: “In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ashish was not allowed to cast his vote, like so many of us. When he protested, the Trinamool goons came and destroyed his house.”

As one travels through the districts, a variation of Mr. Saha’s story is repeated in other parts of West Bengal, of the Trinamool Congress harassing CPI(M) activists, even compelling those elected to the panchayats or even the Assembly to switch their allegiance or face the consequences.

If Mr. Saha retired from politics, a few in the CPI(M) succumbed to pressure. Nabin Chandra Bag, who won the Khondogosh Assembly seat in Bardhaman district on the CPI(M) ticket in 2011, switched to the Trinamool to keep body and soul together: he is now that party’s candidate from the same seat. At the party headquarters in Bardhaman, he sits looking sullen as his colleagues urge him to speak.

In the neighbouring district of Birbhum, in the Assembly segment of Nanoor, I meet Shyamali Pradhan, the CPI(M) candidate here, at the party office, a double-storey building set back from the road. She lost the last polls by a little over 5,000 votes.

As other party workers busy themselves with pre-election work, she sits beneath dusty portraits of Marx and Stalin. “In the last elections,” she says, “the Trinamool didn’t allow our polling agents in 42 booths. Even this office was attacked. Many of our party workers are still too scared to return to Nanoor.” Recalling the panchayat polls of 2013, Shyamali continues, “In most parts of this district, we were forced to withdraw our candidates.”

Debabrata Basu, a CPI(M) district committee member in North 24 Parganas, was Opposition leader in Barasat municipality till 2015. “I contested last year, but the Trinamool forcibly removed my polling agents. When I complained to the police, they laughed at me.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 5:07:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/westbengal2016/Bardhaman%E2%80%99s-sanguinary-tales/article14244101.ece

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