By Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Kolkata, June 18 (SocialNews.XYZ) Since the previous Left Front regime political clashes, violence and bloodbath have become synonymous with the polls in the panchayat elections in West Bengal.
As days passed on, it reached the extreme points in the last two panchayat polls in 2013 and 2018, with 34 per cent seats in the the rural civic body system resulting in uncontested victory for the ruling Trinamool Congress in 2018.
However this time, the nature of violence had been slightly different from the previous two elections on two grounds. The first difference is that this time the bloodbath has started since the nomination phase between June 9 and June 15, with six deaths already being reported from different pockets of the state.
Political observers feel that this early entry of bloodbath is because unlike the previous two panchayat polls when the ruling party had total on- ground control, this time there had been stubborn retaliations and resistance from the opposition forces.
Now with the bloodbath figure being so high during the nomination phase only and considering that these retaliations will continue, everyone is apprehensive of what shape the violence will take in the forthcoming phases of scrutiny of nomination papers, withdrawal of nominations, polling and counting phases and finally the post-counting period.
Political observers have noted another interesting factor of the nomination- period violence which is that more than BJP as the principal opposition force in the state, the stubborn resistance has come from Congress and CPI(M), which are numerically zero in terms of assembly representation - and from All India Secular Front (AISF), which has just one MLA.
From Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, where AISF's Naushad Siddique is the sole representative of the party in West Bengal assembly, this two-year old party is building up the resistance against ruling Trinamool Congress, in areas like Minakhan in North 24 Parganas while in Borsul in East Burdwan, the tussle is mainly between CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress. On the other hand, in Murshidabad district and Chopra in North Dinajpur, Congress workers with an association of CPI(M) activists are taking the retaliation lead.
Of the six deaths reported during the nomination phase, three were reported from Bhangar, two from Murshidabad and one from Chopra in North Dinajpur. The three casualties in Bhangar include a candidate and an activist of AISF with the third one being a local leader of Trinamool Congress. The two casualties from Murshidabad district include one each from Congress and Trinamool Congress camps. The casualty from Chopra is a CPI(M) candidate.
Observers feel that the pattern of political inclination of the casualties also indicated that the attacks and counter-attacks are concentrated between Congress-AISF-Left Front combined and ruling Trinamool Congress.
Meanwhile, although the division bench of the Calcutta High Court's Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam had ordered deployment of central armed forces throughout the state for the panchayat polls, the state government and the West Bengal State Election Commission have approached the Supreme Court against the order.
According to veteran political observer and columnist Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay, much of the onus of the early violence lies with the State Election Commission.
"Former chief secretary of West Bengal Rajiva Sinha was appointed as the state election commissioner on June 7 and on the very next day he announced the date of the election. This indicates lack of minimum homework before making the announcement. And now as the commission and state government approach the apex court to stall the deployment of central armed forces, questions are bound to arise about the seriousness of the two in ensuring free and fair polls," Bandopadhyay added.
Industry observer Santanu Sanyal feels that more than this bloodbath, what is even more alarming for West Bengal is the picture of the state that is being portrayed nationally or globally and what kind of signals such violence are sending to the potential investors.
"In this age of Internet, the entire globe, especially the non-resident Bengalis, who act as the virtual brand ambassadors for West Bengal nationally and globally, are monitoring the day-to-day scenes over the rural civic body polls. What are the signals that they are getting?" Sanyal said.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress leadership including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has continued to claim that the nomination process had never been so peaceful during the previous Left Front regime.