Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal has been repeatedly claiming that in the ongoing general elections, Trinamool Congress (TMC) will win all the 42 seats of the state. She is not the only one, other members of the party are also very confident about their victory. TMC MP Derek O’Brien said at a press conference in the recent past, “BJP people are also saying they will win 50 out of 42 seats as they don't even know how many seats are there. Let them dream, people of Bengal are with Mamata Banerjee and TMC. On May 23, we'll see where these people hide.”
However, the kind of violence being perpetrated by the party and its goons tells a different story. From attacking the members of other parties, booth-rigging, booth capturing, to murder – TMC has been accused of everything by opposition parties. All these actions reek of insecurity, and are antithetical to the statements being made by the TMC leaders.
People have already started asking questions – if they are so sure about their victory, what is the need for so much violence? What is the need for disrupting the voting procedure if it is them who are going to win in all 42 seats in Bengal?
The first two phases of election in the state, during which five constituencies went to the polls were marred with violence, and clashes between people allegedly affiliated with TMC and other political parties. These were not isolated events. On April 18, the polling day for the second phase of the general elections, CPI(M) MP Mohammad Salim’s car was attacked in Islampur, Raiganj, the constituency he is contesting from. On the day of the polling in Raigunj, Salim was visiting a booth in Islampur when he was mobbed allegedly by TMC goons, and his car was pelted with bricks and stones, injuring his driver.
Despite the increased presence of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), the third phase of polling on April 23, also saw a same number of incidents, if not more. On the day when four constituencies went to polls, Tiarul Kalam, a 56-year-old voter was hacked to death allegedly by TMC supporters in Murshidabad constituency, presumably for being a Congress supporter. He was attacked when he went to cast his vote with his 18-year-old son. He was declared dead at the hospital.
This is not the first time the polls in West Bengal have been marred with violence. The single-phase panchayat elections of 2018 were one of the bloodiest elections of the recent past. Almost 30 people were killed on the day of the polling, and in the aftermath, as a result of violence perpetrated by allegedly by TMC activists. Hundreds of crude bombs were hurled and guns were fired across the state, leaving numerous people injured.
The panchayat polls of 2018 also set a record in the number of seats won without contest. In as many as 32.56% of the 48,650 seats in gram panchayat, the only candidate to successfully file a nomination was from the TMC. 3,059 of the 9,217 panchayat samiti seats and 203 out of 825 zilla parishad seats were uncontested. This happened despite of the Calcutta High Court setting a precedent by allowing filing of e-nominations for panchayat polls. The order was given in response to a plea filed by the CPI(M) after almost a thousand potential candidates were unable to file their nominations at the administration offices due to violence wreaked allegedly by the ruling party.
While the TMC leaders proudly declare how confident they are about the victory, and announce how the people of Bengal are with them, the local goons have been apparently given the responsibility to make it happen. They are the ones trying to make sure that only the TMC supporters are able to reach the polling booths and cast their vote, and ensuring that anyone with a different political belief is deprived of their democratic right to choose their representative.
It makes one wonder, when Mamata Banerjee, or an TMC MP, a leader of the party claims to have the people on their side, who are these people they are talking about. Are they taking about the goons who are in the charge of ensuring that the votes go to only to one party, no matter what kind of violence it takes?
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