TMC eyes victory in peaceful Junglemahal

TMC eyes victory in peaceful Junglemahal

As “Junglemahal” in West Bengal heads for its first Lok Sabha polls in years under an ambience of something other than fear, gunfire and exploding mines, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) hopes to retain its dominance over the area.

The voting percentage is expected to see an upturn in the Jhargram and Purulia parliamentary constituencies under Junglemahal, all set for the elections.

For years, a Maoist stronghold in the heart of Bengal, where bullets and improvised explosive devices ruled, Junglemahal is now under a heavy security blanket. While the two districts of Purulia and West Midnapore, along with Bankura, also a part of the forested region, vote on Wednesday, at least three Assembly segment in each of the two constituencies of Jhargram and Purulia will see polling only till 4 pm instead of the usual 6 pm, to ensure that electoral workers and voters do not face any risk from the Maoists.
Without fear

Although the “Red Corridor” has not witnessed any subversive activity since the encounter killing of Maoist leader Kishenji in November 2012, security forces are not sparing any effort to ensure people vote without fear. The TMC, riding high on its success in the 2011 assembly elections and the 2013 panchayat polls, is hoping to unseat the Left from its long-held seats in Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura constituencies.

The ultra-Left guerrillas, who often call for poll boycott in the region, have not done so this year. Instead, they have urged people to use the NOTA (None of the above) option.
Under such circumstances, the TMC is hoping its so-called Junglemahal model of development will reap dividends. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly harped on the development initiatives taken by her government.

Local TMC leaders believe the state government's rehabilitation package to surrendered Maoists played a significant role in establishing peace.

Opposition parties, however, allege that the area continues to lack even basic development, and all that the TMC has promised are lies. Pulin Behari Baske, the CPM sitting MP from Jhargram, hoping to retain his seat, alleges a tacit understanding between the TMC and the Maoists. His muted campaign, however, points to a weakened Left in the region, and Dr Uma Soren of TMC, is swearing by how hundreds of the Maoists have given up arms to join the state government’s development initiatives.

While Purulia TMC candidate Dr Mriganka Mahato holds some sway in the area as a prominent physician, Congress candidate Nepal Mahato has considerable acceptance among local voters since he has been a successful MLA from the district and is likely to take away a chunk of the votes.

The four-cornered fight between the Congress, the TMC, the Left and the BJP is intense in Purulia. With the saffron party having an old base and a traditional vote-bank owing to the RSS-affiliated Adivasi Kalyan Samiti running several initiatives among the local tribal populace, party candidate Bikash Banerjee could be a dark horse.

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