There is an unprecedented attack on the basic democratic right to file nominations for the panchayat elections in West Bengal.
The ruling Trinamul Congress has resorted to a full-fledged assault on democracy and the rule of law by capturing the block development offices (BDOs), sub-divisional offices (SDOs) and even District Magistrate offices in some districts to obstruct and drive away opposition candidates from filing nominations for the three-tier panchayat elections.
This is a form of pre-election rigging which makes the election a farce.
Since 2nd April when filing of nominations began for all three phases of polling, the state has witnessed the shameful spectacle of TMC goons stationed at the administrative offices physically assaulting and chasing away candidates of the opposition and of the Left parties in particular.
Hundreds of Left and opposition candidates have been injured, their identity cards and other papers snatched away. In many places, offices of the parties have been raided by TMC men to snatch away papers and to threaten people.
On April 5th, Ramachandra Dome, former MP and a member of the Central Committee who was leading a group of candidates to file nominations at Nalhati in Birbhum district was brutally attacked and suffered a head injury.
In all these attacks, the police have refused to intervene, or, are in connivance with the TMC men.
The time given for filing of nominations for all three phases is only between 2nd and 9th April. This is too short. At the same time, the time for withdrawals is also one week, unusually long. It is apprehended that this time will be used to intimidate opposition candidates to withdraw.
If the panchayat elections are not to be a farcical exercise, it is imperative that:
(i) All those who wish to file their nominations are allowed to do so without any fear and intimidation;
(ii) For this, the time for filing nominations should be extended wherever required;
(iii) Where candidates were prevented from filing nominations, alternative arrangements should be made for them to register their candidature in secure conditions.
(iv) Firm action should be taken against all those indulging in hooliganism, intimidation and encirclement of administrative offices.
The attacks going on in West Bengal are not just on the Left Front but on the entire opposition and strikes at the very roots of democracy. We call upon all those who cherish democracy and democratic values to resist these attacks and assert their rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Communist Party of India
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation
All India Forward Bloc
Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist)
Report on Attacks on Panchayat Elections in West Bengal (Upto April 5, 2018)
The ruling TMC in West Bengal has resorted to full-fledged assault on democracy and rule of law as Panchayat elections have started to become a farce. From the declaration of schedule to murderous attacks on opposition candidates in the nomination process, this year’s Panchayat elections have brought out the authoritarian character of TMC most crudely.
The Chief Minister herself declared repeatedly that she wanted ‘opposition-free Panchayats’. Her party leaders, including MP-s called upon party activists to ensure that no opposition member gets elected. The monstrous process has started.
Though the three tier Panchayat is a constitutional arrangement, every democratic norm is being violated in West Bengal. To begin with, Panchayat Elections were declared suddenly. In the All Party meeting, held just two days before the announcement, the State Election Commissioner refused to discuss probable dates and confessed that he was ‘totally dependent’ on the state administration. On 31st March, State Election Commission declared the schedule. The three phase elections will be held on 1st, 3rd, 5th May.
Nomination process has started from 2nd April. It will continue up to 9th April. The nomination process started with notification, virtually providing no time to opposition parties to prepare. The total number of seats in panchayat is 58,692. Only seven days are available for filing of nomination in such huge number of seats.
Though three-phase elections have been declared, surprisingly the last date of nomination filing is same for all phases. The schedule also clashed with ongoing Higher Secondary examinations in the state. This will hinder campaign as microphones would not be used during this period.
The schedule also brought out nefarious design of the ruling party. While 12 districts will go to polls on the first day, only two- Birbhum and
Murshidabad- will be in the second. These two districts have been selected to intensify terror.
As soon as the process of collecting and filing of nomination papers started on 2nd April, TMC armed gangs began to cordon Block Development Offices (BDO), Sub Divisional Offices (SDO), and even District Magistrate’s offices in some districts. The plan is simple: the ruling party will not allow opposition to collect and submit nomination papers. This is a new method, applied partially in 2013 in Birbhum and some other districts. This year it has become the dominant feature throughout the state in first stage of terror. The Right to contest in an election, a constitutional right, has become endangered in what may be termed as ‘pre-election rigging’.
In Birbhum, TMC miscreants gathered in numbers in Siuri, Rampurhat, Labhpur, Nanur, Ilambazar, Bolpur, Nalhati 2, Murarai , Dubrajpur, Mohhamedbazar.
They cordoned the offices and chased away CPI(M), Left Front and other opposition activists who came to either collect or submit nominations. In Rampurhat , CPI(M) member of Budhigram Panchayat Panai Sheikh was brutally attacked. Sheikh is a disabled in his left hand from birth. Despite that he was mercilessly beaten and was later admitted in hospital. CPI(M) panchayat member Rana Let was mercilessly beaten in Rampurhat. CPI(M) candidate Mitali Das was manhandled, her voter card and other documents snatched, her husband beaten in Nalhati. TMC district President and infamous muscleman Anubrata Mondal has boasted in front of media, “Whenever opposition supporters will try to submit nomination they will see development stands in front of them”.
It was clear that he meant TMC armed gangs as ‘development’. On second and third day, TMC cadres openly exhibited swords, knives in front of block offices. In Mayureswar-1 they virtually blocked the entrance and CPI(M) candidate Sajjad Mirza was attacked.
In Rampurhat CPI(ML) candidate and secretary of Rampurhat Bar Association Prodyot Mukherjee was severely beaten. In Siuri, BJP leader Kalosona Mondal was stabbed in the vicinity of DM office. Presences of media persons are banned in Birbhum block offices by the fatwa of TMC.
On 5th April, hundreds of people gathered in Nalhati in Birbhum, determined to overcome attacks and file nominations. CPI(M) central committee member Ramchandra Dome, state committee member Goutam Ghosh were among those who led the march towards block office. TMC armed gangs threw bombs and fired to disperse the rally. Ramchandra Dome , Goutam Ghosh were seriously injured.
CPI(M) activist Hiru Late was critically injured. Despite that, Left Front candidates entered block office and submitted nominations.
On 2nd April, CPI(M) candidates from villages in Borjora in Bankura district came to file their nomination in Block office. TMC gangs attacked them injuring more than 30 persons including women. CPI(M) district committee member Sujoy Chowdhury, Borjora Panchayet Samiti member Sharif Mondal, and others were injured. Attacks continued in different parts of Bankura. In Bankura town itself, no Left Front candidates were allowed to enter in BDO office. In Hirbandh, CPI(M) activists were brutally beaten when they entered in BDO office. Many of them were injured. However, local people retaliated and chased away TMC miscreants. In Ranibandh, TMC miscreants attacked CPI(M) activists. Later in a clash, a BJP candidate, Ajit Murmu was killed. On 4th April,. TMC activists and police jointly attacked CPI(M) candidates in Sonamukhi. Party MLA Ajit Roy was injured. TMC gangs blocked roads in Indpur, Gangajalghati.
In East Midnapore, Left Front candidates were attacked in Khejuri, Panskura, Sutahata. In Sutahata, CPI(M) MLA Tapashi Mondal was attacked as she led Left Front candidates to block office. Nur Alam, Sabhapati of Sutahata Panchayat Samiti was severely beaten.
In Burdwan East , block offices in Galsi, Ketugram2, Katwa, Aushgram2, Raina1, Khandaghosh have been surrounded. CPI(M) leaders and candidates were attacked.
In Burdwan West , TMc gangs have cordoned block offices in Jamuria, Andal, Salanpur. In Jamuria, submission of nomination was not allowed. CPI(M) candidates faced attack in Salanpur, Pandeveswar.
In South 24 Parganas, TMC organized attack in Budge Budge-1, Budge Budge-2, Falta, Magrahat-2, Diamond Harbour-2 and prevented Left Front candidates from collecting nomination forms.
In North 24 Parganas, TMC activists attacked CPI(M) office in Murarishah, Hasnabad and attacked Party activists. TMC gangs cordoned a market area to attack CPI(M) activists, creating large scale panick among people. CPI(M) DCM Shakti Mukherjee was injured among others. In Minakha TMC activists took position within BDO office and severely beat up CPI(M) candidates.TMC has cordoned off Sandeshkhali-1 block office.
In Coochbehar, Left Front candidates were prevented from submission of nomination forms. They were attacked and journalists were mercilessly beaten up by TMC activists.
In Raiganj in North Dinajpur, TMC gangs started firing and charged bombs to disperse opposition candidates on 4th April. They terrorized entire town and searched for Left Front and opposition activists. TMC armed gangs blocked nomination process in Kaliyaganj, Itahar.
In Murshidabad district, block offices in Raghunathganj, Kandi, Baroan, salar, Raninahar, Jalangi, Nabagram, Murshidanad-Jiaganj have been captured by TMC miscreants. CPI(M) offices in Raninagar and Sherpur was vandalized.
In Hooghly, TMC armed gangs have taken control of block offices in Haripal, Jangipara, Goghat, Balagarh, Purshura, Dhaniakhali.
In Nadia, CPI(M) candidates were chased away from Hanskhali, Chapra, Ranaghat-2, Santipur.
In West Medinipur, two women candidates of CPI(M) have been kidnapped in Ghatal. Women candidate and her proposer was attacked in Kharagpur.
Opposition candidates were chased away from Mohanpur, Pingla, Medinipur Sadar blocks too. TMC bike-borne gangs are freely moving and creating terror.
In Howrah, Left candidates were severely beaten up and all documents snatched in Jagat Ballavpur. Many were injured and admitted to hospital.
CPI(ML) Liberation candidates were attacked in Bankura, Dhanikhali in Hooghly. In some areas, SUCI(C) candidates were also obstructed and attacked.
In almost all areas, the police have acted as accomplices to the TMC. In some districts, police have actively participated in chasing away opposition activists.
However, in such an atmosphere of state-sponsored terror Left Front activists are trying their level best to submit nominations, braving attacks and intimidations.
As on 5th April, Nomination Report is following:
Zilla Parishad: Total Seats: 825/ TMC 61/ Left Front 91/ BJP 87/ Congress 40
Panchayat Samiti: Total Seats: 9217/ TMC 2063/ Left Front 753/ BJP 1511/Congress 158
Gram Panchayat: Total Seats 48650/ TMC 13319/ Left Front 4539/ BJP 9454/ Congress 1221
Non-existent State Election Commission
The State Election Commission has abjectly surrendered and has remained totally insensitive to atrocities committed. Left Front delegation has met State Election Commissioner regularly but he expressed his inability to address any of the grievances. Left Front delegation has demanded security for nomination process, which is practically absent in districts. Apart from direct attack, system of providing provisional caste certificate has been cancelled. The very short time span available for nomination has made this process more difficult. State Election Commission has also failed to explain the rationale behind schedule. While only seven days are available for submission of nomination, same number of days have allowed for withdrawal.
It has been apprehended that TMC would pressurize and force opposition candidates to withdraw.
The first phase of voting will take place on May Day. Central trade unions, Left parties and many other organizations have forcefully objected to this denigration of International Working Peoples’ Day and demanded a change in schedule. Trade Unions organized a rally in front of State Election Commission office.
To recollect, In Mamata Banerjee’s reign, one State Election Commissioner had to move to courts seeking protection of her duties under tremendous threat from the state government and another was forced to resign during election process threatened by state ministers. On 5th April, as many as seven state ministers went to State Election Commission office to further pressurize them. On 6th April 17 parties including Left Front will sit in a dharna in front of SEC office.