West Bengal Elections: A Saga Of Violent Clashes, Notoriety And Political Murders
On Thursday, 21st April, 2016, a 35-year-old man’s body was found lying outside a polling booth in Murshidabad. The man, identified as Tahidur Islam, was killed by bombs hurled outside the polling booth. He was a CPI(M) supporter and the day was the third phase of the assembly elections.
Tahidur’s death is not the first political ‘murder’ in the state which has a long and infamous history of electoral violence, which some say, dates back to the pre-independence era, and a somewhat romantic culture of belief in the revolutionary spirit.
This long history of violence explains why the Election Commission (EC) decided to conduct elections in West Bengal over six phases, while Tamil Nadu, a much larger state, will go to polls on a single day.
Mamata Banerjee gained power in 2011 calling an end to politics of revenge. Her “Badla noy, Bodol chaayi” (We want ‘Change’ and not ‘Revenge’), slogan was considered as one of the USPs that ensured the landslide victory in her favour.
In a recent Indian Express story, one illegal weapons maker is quoted as saying, “Anyone can buy. The CPM, TMC, Congress anyone — and they all do. While the supplier may be a supporter of one party, he will sell to all. At the end of the day, this is his business.”
2013: According to the NCRB, there were 26 political murders in West Bengal in the year, the highest in the country.
2014: Similarly, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there were 14 instances of political killings and 1,166 incidents of violence.
2015: According to official figures, the last elections conducted in the state, the 2015 civic polls, saw four political deaths and 462 other instances of violence.
Second Phase, 2016:
* A BJP worker has been allegedly attacked by TMC cadres in Bolpur in Birbhum.
* At the Nanur Assembly seat, a CPI(M) polling agent was allegedly stopped by TMC from entering the polling booth.
Third Phase, 2016:
* Tahidur Islam (35), was killed by miscreants. Though the links suggest that he was a polling agent, it was later confirmed by the Election Commission and her daughter that he was a common voter only.
* Reports from Burdwan district said four persons were injured in separate incidents in polling booths under Ketugram Assembly constituency.
* The ear of a CPI(M) worker identified as Seltu Sheikh was slashed and leg of another CPI(M) man was fractured after a scuffle in front of booth no 78.
* In another incident, two CPI(M) workers were injured at booth no 48 under Ketugram Assembly seat when bombs were reportedly hurled at them.
* CPI(M) district secretary Sumit Dey alleged that party supporters were obstructed by Trinamool Congress activists and agents were beaten up in some places of Gayespur in Nadia district.