Even as the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal continue to deny involvement any poll-related violence or allegations of rigging in the recently concluded Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections, Opposition leaders are moving the court for justice.
The three main Opposition parties comprising the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Congress had organised protests during and after the polls alleging vote rigging and booth capturing by TMC cadres. On the poll day, the police alsoreceived hundreds of complaintsfrom different political parties claiming that their election agents were driven out of polling booths.
The Opposition’s clamour for re-elections became stronger as the poll results were declared, in which the TMC bagged 134 of 144 seats, posting a hat-trick win. The BJP managed to win just three wards. The Congress and the CPI (M)-led Left Front bagged two wards each. In terms of vote shares, the Left Front came second with around 11% votes.
However, the TMC’s victory was shadowed by accusations of strong-arm tactics and violence against opposition candidates and cadres. It has left visible victims who are yet to heal from their wounds. According to media reports, candidates from all three opposition parties faced some kind of assault during the poll violence.
Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, CPI(M) candidate from Ward No. 75 and three-time former councillor from the South Port area of Kolkata, has moved the Calcutta High Court appealing the election to be declared null and void. Unable to walk withbandaged legs, KhantoldtheIndian Expressthat the police had not even recordedhis statement after he was assaultedand injuredoutside a polling boothand the HC was his only hope for justice.
In the petition filed on Wednesday, the 56-year-old CPI(M) leader demanded a court-monitored probe into the allegations of booth capturing and vote riggingduring the civic polls.
“On Sunday afternoon, I was at the Marine House polling station when around 100 TMC supporters and outsiders stormed in. They beat me and my agents,” Khan told theIndian Express.
Another CPI(M) candidate, Manju Kar, who contested at Ward 122, told theIndian Expressthat she was scared to lodge a police complaintafter TMC supporters allegedly beat her and her elder brother following their protest against vote rigging. “I received injuries on my hand but my brother suffered an eye injury,”the 50-year-old politician told the newspaper.
Congress candidate Rabi Saha, who had contested the KMC elections,moved the High Court on Wednesday, seeking leave to file a petition over alleged assault on him after the conclusion of polling, and the grant of police protection.He was subsequently granted leave to file a petition in this regard.
Saha, the Congress candidate from Ward No.16, claimed that TMC supporters roughed him up and made a video of the incident. The video of him being assaulted and stripped in public by miscreantswent viral on social media.
Saha’s counselKoustab Bagchi claimed that the police did not take necessary action following the episodeand they would seek direction from the court to the police to take action against the culpritsand grant protection to the politician, the PTI reported.
Mukund Jhawar, the 44-year-old BJP candidate from WardNo.20, told the Indian Express over the phone that he waspreparing for an eyesurgery on Thursday. Jhawar said that he was beaten so badly that the doctorsaid his right eyewas severely damaged.Echoing Khan and Saha, he said that he was dragged out and beaten allegedly by TMC workers in public in Ahiritola after he protested against booth capturing. The police accepted his complaint only after a news channel’s reporters arrived, he told the newspaper.
Amitabha Chakraborty, senior Congress leader and polling agent for Santosh Pathak in Ward 45,claimed to havesuffered a crack onhishand. He told the Indian Express that he was shocked thatthe police stoppedhisfrom catching false voters. “Our agents were driven out of the booths by TMC workers, who beat me in front of the police,” said the 59-year-oldCongress leader, who wasalso planning to approach the High Courtin this regard.
On December 21, the BJP’s state vice-president Pratap Banerjee, and CPI(M) candidate from Ward No. 2, Debaleena Sarkar, hadfiled petitionsin the high court seeking a re-poll.
On Sunday, Joint Commissioner of Police (Headquarters) Subhankar Sinha Sarkar toldthe mediathat 209 persons had been arrested for their alleged role in the poll violence. “We attended to every complaint received and each case is being looked into,” Sarkar had said.