The Kolkata municipal polls campaign is in full swing. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) has draped the city with its tricolour flag, hoarding flexes, and wall motif.
In the battle of gaining control of city walls for campaigning, the TMC has beaten the Left Front, which too looks at wall paintings as an effective and affordable way of mobilising support in the elections. It has been alleged that TMC's muscle power has helped in this regard as its hoardings are visible throughout the city- with Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left at distant second and third positions.
After its tough performance in fiercely-fought Assembly elections last year, the lack of campaigning for the city municipal elections by BJP has astonished many political observers. Currently, in the 144-ward Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), TMC has 124 seats, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) is at 13, BJP is at five, and Congress has two councillors. The elections for these seats is scheduled to be held on Sunday, December 19.
The candidate profiles of TMC for these elections include many affluent people, with many mentioning their jobs as 'social workers.' The affidavit of Kajari Banerjee, a TMC candidate from city Ward no. 73 and also the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's sister-in-law, shows that she has a moveable property worth more than Rs 2.45 crores. Her husband Samir Banerjee, CM's brother, also has property worth over a crore. Cumulatively, the couple has property worth over Rupees five crore. Interestingly, her annual income from her profession as a social worker is stated to be somewhere around Rs 25.7 lakh. The discrepancy in her affidavit has been questioned by many, with one lawyer, Imitiaz Ahmed, filing an FIR with the Kolkata Police in this matter. In his FIR, Ahmed has asked how a person who shares space with the CM of the state could own such a vast array of assets in the city.
Ward no. 101 is among the most notorious wards in these elections where TMC has fielded another social worker in Bappaditya Dasgupta. This ward, a former stronghold of the Left, is seeing political tensions due to muscle power employed by TMC, as per allegations. Dasgupta's chief opposition opponent, an advocate, named Atanu Chatterjee, hasn't been allowed to campaign freely amid the embargo created by TMC supporters in the ward.
Similar situations have been reported from ward no. 110 and ward no. 109. The situation is especially tense in the wards of the added areas of KMC, where the Left has a good organisation structure. These areas have come under attack from the ruling party's supporters. For instance, in ward no. 66 of Metiabruz, where Faiz Ahmad Khan is the CPIM candidate, severe hooliganism has been reported. Despite that, Khan, a popular candidate and former Mayor, is optimistic about his chances and has indulged in door-to-door campaigning for these polls. Many other opposition candidates have also taken to door-to-door campaigning as they cannot match the money and muscle power of TMC. The last seven days also saw massive public rallies by TMC and CPIM to garner support for their candidates.