Friday, December 1, 2023

Kolkata Polls: Horrors of assembly polls revisited; But who cares?

Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had squared once again for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls on Sunday. Once again the familiar reports of intimidation, bombs, violence and violations of election norms has surfaced in public space. And once again you could be sure nothing would come out of it. 

The outcome of the polling in 144 wards of the KMC would be known tomorrow (December 21, 2021). The previous elections of 2020 had been postponed due to the Covid pandemic. 

Let’s sample the allegations which are already in public domain:

  • The polling booths had CCTV cameras but stickers had been pasted on them; 
  • Chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee were granted Z+ protection with security by the West Bengal Election Commission just a day before the polls;  There was no such mention in the November 26 circular (It facilitated armed men to be inside the polling booths); 
  • BJP candidate Suman Deo’s wife was threatened with rape and murder after KMC polls in front of her 8-year-old daughter;
  • Videos in public space of BJP candidate Brajesh Jha (Ward 7) being manhandled by the Kolkata Police; 
  • Bomb explosions outside Sealdah station, in the heart of Kolkata;
  • BJP booth agents being threatened and terrorized;
  • CAPF has not been deployed; both the HC and SC haven’t entertained the plea. Indeed matter was listed 23rd in HC hearing; 
  • Anushree Chattopadhyay of BJP, candidate for Ward 87, a ward which has favoured BJP in the past, caught a fake voter;
  • Meena Devi Purohit, five-time BJP councillor and former Deputy Mayor, brutally attacked, her clothes torn; 
  • Polling booth in Ward 22 fully vandalised; BJP workers attacked; EVM machines smashed to the ground. It again is the Ward which traditionally favours BJP;
  • Videos of voters being requested to vote for someone else’s behalf; thousands of such fake votes alleged;
  • Suvendu Adhikari, Mamata’s bete noire, was manhandled in front of West Bengal State Election Commission office. 

What if this all is a lie? 

One would never know for what’s our experience with the post-poll violence in Bengal in May? The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) used words in its report which brought the horror alive, mentioned “ politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus” and warned the Bengal prototype would be spread to the rest of country and it would sound the death knell of democracy as we know in India. 

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) too has made submissions but the Kolkata High Court is taking its sweet time on the matter. No instances of Suo Moto as such here.

It probably has frozen any action which the Centre might have been contemplating against the Mamata Banerjee government given the case is sub judice

What if it all is truth?

  • That the West Bengal State Election Commission has turned a blind eye to transgressions by the powers in the KMC polls;
  • That the Kolkata Police has acted only as an extension of the State government;
  • That the goons of Trinamool Congress have run amuck; 
  • And that the Courts have looked the other way; 

It’s a scary unravelling of India’s democracy. 

All those who hold power—Governments, Courts, Police, election bodies, media—are either complicit or looking the other way. There is no urgency to save the lives. 

No concern that when violence is a norm, democracy is buried for ever. 

No shame that if polls are rigged, democracy is but a sham.

No guilt in abetting rapes and murders, fleeing humanity, homes uprooted, lives destroyed. 

No sense of desertion of India’s unity and integrity if Islamists and India-breakers go unchecked, and worse even aided. 


With such Powers, what hopes a common citizen has of justice? How he would have that free spirit which speaks and acts without fear or repercussion? Worse, how he would even make his own choice when it comes to casting his vote?

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