TMC’s strong-arm tactics wrong

Political and electoral violence have been a part of life in West Bengal but the large-scale and extensive violence witnessed during the panchayat elections in the state from the time of filing nominations to the polling day has been out of the ordinary. At least 19 people were killed and hundreds were injured on the day of polling on Monday. People were killed in bomb blasts or were burnt to death, poll officials were attacked and booths and ballot boxes were set on fire. The violence was unleashed by the goons and workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress, and the candidates and supporters of Opposition parties — the CPM, the Congress and the BJP — were the victims. The schedule of elections had to be changed because of violence at the time of filing of nominations. Many people were killed, attacked and intimidated then, and a large number of candidates were prevented from filing nominations. Many others were coerced to withdraw their nominations. The fact that the Trinamool Congress won 34% of the seats uncontested, is proof of the use of strong-arm tactics by the party. 

The Supreme Court has ordered the state election commission (SEC) not to notify the results of the uncontested seats. The court had also told the SEC to ensure that free and fair elections were held. But the continued violence in the run-up to the elections and on the polling day shows that the SEC, the state government, and the police did not care much about the court’s order and their own responsibilities. The state police chief described the death of 19 people in violence as “stray incidents.’’ The police did not arrest those who indulged in violence during and after the nominations, and did not make any preventive detentions. It seemed to support the Trinamool activists and hooligans. The government did not take any steps to prevent and control violence. In the past also, it has supported and even promoted violence against Opposition parties, when maintaining peace is its primary responsibility. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other ministers even said that Opposition parties were a hindrance and the same party should rule at the state and lower levels. 

The state election commission’s role has been especially questionable. After the violence at the time of nominations, it had said that the dates for filing them would be extended. But it went back on its word the next day without any reason. The Calcutta High Court has sharply criticised the commission for many of its decisions and actions. It has acted like an agency of the state government and not as a fair and impartial constitutional authority.

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TMC’s strong-arm tactics wrong

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