People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 18

April 30, 2006



High Percentage Polling Marks Free,

Fair & Peaceful Second Phase


B Prasant


A HIGH turnout and an incident-free day marked the second phase of polling in the four districts of Howrah, Hooghly, Midnapore east, and Nadia on April 22, 2006. More than 65 per cent votes were cast by the time the clock wound past three in the afternoon.


Biman Basu, chairman of the Bengal Left Front and secretary of the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) has extended his felicitations to the people of the state for the high turnout, for guaranteeing that the voting passed off absolutely peacefully everywhere, and for ensuring that the scattered and feeble attempts at disruption by the worthies of the Bengal opposition fell woefully by the wayside.


A harsh sun beat down mercilessly from a shiny and cloudless sky throughout south Bengal on the day the polling took place.  Long queues formed from very early in the morning outside the voting stations keeping the election officials on their toes in the task of ensuring the polling commenced on time. 


As in the first phase of the assembly elections, women dominated the early morning lines of voters, and a large number of women in the rural constituencies could be seen with children slung across the back or cradled on a sling.


The district of Midnapore east would present a different picture as in the past.  Here, the boro paddy season is in full swing.  The kisans and the khet mazdoors would finish their allotted field work before taking a bit of rest and a bit of food under the cool of the shady banyan and pipal trees before going to the polling stations, cheerful and in a festive mood.


This apparently rattled a section of the centrally-deputed election officials who would frown on this cheerful but late afternoon rush on the booths, and were subsequently made to get attuned to the reality of the situation.


In some areas of the four districts, polling got off to a delayed start. The voters waited patiently out in the sun while the election officials readied the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s).


This could well have been avoided had they listened to the repeated plea of the Left Front chairman Biman Basu who had earlier called upon the concerned officialdom at the booth level to ensure that all the EVM’s inclusive of the spare ones were in good working order well beforehand during the pre-poll ‘test runs.’


The delay caused no ripple of discontent or impatience among the voters of south Bengal who had come determined to exercise their democratic right and to cast their votes.


Some unforeseen incidents of an awkward nature did take place in Hooghly during the day. At Pursura and Uttarpara, the Left Front candidates themselves found their way barred while trying to get into the booths. 


Arguments sometime tryingly long had to be entered into with the sepoys and officers of the central para-military forces (CPMF), and ultimately elections officials’ intervention saw the imbroglio solved, but not without leaving behind some bitterness that could easily have been avoided. 


A similar incident occurred in at least one booth in the Arambagh constituency. 


Elsewhere at the Seoraphuli constituency, a camp office of the Left Front candidate was unceremoniously and with great brutality pulled down by security personnel despite the office having been outside of the prescribed 200 meters limit. The LF workers showed admirable restraint here in the face of great provocation.


At Pursura in a market place, the CPMF suddenly ran riot late in the morning and ransacked and tore down several shops. In protest, the shopkeepers downed shutters. 


The crafty if twisted imagination of the audio-visual media was then seen at its worst when the scene of shopkeepers closing shops were shown ad nauseum on several channels throughout the day as the polling went on, but without any reference to what had caused the shopkeepers to act in the manner they did.  What was subtly hinted at was that this was all in ‘protest against the Left Front’s mis-rule.’


Midnapore east was free of even such marginal happenings. At Egra, though, some Trinamul Congress goons beat up a CPI(M) worker who was later rescued by other CPI(M) workers.  The Trinamul Congress braves ran away.


In Nadia, the Bargatchia booth at Nakashipara witnessed armed Trinamul Congress hoods terrorising the voters and quizzing them in a threatening manner as to why would they vote for the Left Front all the time, and not for the Trinamul Congress.  When the voters united to chase the ruffians away, the local Trinamul unit gave a grand call for ‘boycotting the polls’ that was promptly ignored by the voters.


Much in a similar and desperate vein did the Trinamul Congress spread rumours about ‘riots and clashes taking place in the area in the Haringhata constituency'.  When it was found that the whole effort was a sham and a lie, the irate voters gave the local Trinamul chiefs a good chase.


It was interesting to note that in great many places in Khanakul and Goghat stretches in Hooghly where the Trinamul Congress ‘warriors’ had once terrorised villagers for nights together during the last assembly polls, the outfit found it hard put to come up with polling agents in a great many polling booths.


At the end of the day, the Trinamul Congress chieftain accompanied by a supporting chorus from Bengali news dailies like the Bartaman again came up with the grim forecast that a ‘silent revolution in the ballot boxes would see the Left Front totally routed.’  There were very few takers even among the Bengal opposition for this somewhat desperate prediction.