West Bengal politics: Guns, violence and anarchy

West Bengal politics: Guns, violence and anarchy

Bengal turned into a battlefield during the election.

Major elections in West Bengal have a peculiar love affair with violence and the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections was no exception. At least three people have died including one Congress worker getting killed in the Murshidabad district during the third phase of the election. Even as post poll violence continues to ravage the North Kolkata, the opposition parties in the South and North 24 Paraganas districts have alleged that the state may witness severe violence on May 23 in case the results are not favorable for the ruling Trinamool Congress(TMC).

With BJP gaining ground in the state, the clashes between the saffron party and TMC during and after the polls is drawing more media attention. But political violence in Bengal is not exclusive to the TMC regime beginning in 2011.

Three people were killed in the state due to political violence during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and several injured. The state witnessed seven political murders during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At least 20 people were killed during the Panchayat elections last year in Bengal.

While Opposition parties in Bengal have frequently targeted TMC over political violence during the last panchayat elections, the later sought to counter it by referring to bloodshed during the 34 years of Left Front rule in the state.

Earlier this month,TMC MP and national spokesperson Derek O’ Brien in a tweet claimed that “400 people were killed in poll violence in the 1990s in CPI(M) rule. 2003: 40 dead.”

In August 2010, Left Front chairperson Biman Basu claimed that 269 CPI(M) workers were killed in West Bengal since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

However, the current political violence in Bengal is not only confined to the CPI(M) and TMC, with BJP being the latest addition. It was Congress and the Left Front which came to blows in the 1980s. This became evident in the statistics of political violence presented in the State Assembly by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal Jyoti Basu. According to the figures presented in 1980, about 85 political activists were killed in the state due to clashes between the political parties.

Political observers are of the opinion that violence has become a tradition where the political parties believe that without violence and muscle power they cannot survive. Lack of employment is also forcing the educated youths of the state to become the source of muscled power for the political parties.

“Violence in West Bengal is an important weapon to suppress the opposition. It is used not only strategically but in a structured way and has become a means to control the political system,” Biswanath Chakraborty, a Kolkata based political observer told DH.