Bengal’s Bloody Elections
The West Bengal poll scene is becoming murkier with every passing minute. During the last one month or so, the state has witnessed unprecedented electoral violence including the death of five people in one single constituency. But even such a catastrophe has failed to restrain the warring sides. Every day, candidates of various political parties are attacked by rival groups and large scale violence is taking place even in constituencies where election is already over. The clashes between rival groups are not only limited to political parties, in some places the clashes have taken a communal turn too. The situation is frightening to say the least. There is wide-spread apprehension that violence will engulf the entire state after the declaration of poll results on May 2. If such an assumption becomes true, the task of the new government has already been chalked out. Instead of planning for speedy economic recovery of the state or preventing second wave of Covid-19 virus from spreading further, the new government will have to spend all it’s energy and time on bringing peace back to the state.
The death of five youths is Sitalkuchi, a remote and bordering constituency in North Bengal is highly unfortunate. What is more heartbreaking is the reaction of political leaders of various political parties after the tragic incident. All leaders appeared to be more interested in baking political bread over the incident than standing beside the families of those killed. Instead of making an effort to diffuse the tension, the political parties took the situation to such an extent that the Election Commission (EC) had no other option but to keep the place out of the reach of political leaders for 72 hours. Even such a restriction could not prevent political parties from trying to reap political benefits from the incident. Elsewhere in the state, while campaigning for their respective parties the leaders made such inflammatory comments that EC had no other option but to impose a gag order on them.
It is hard to understand why in West Bengal the battle of ballot always becomes likened to a real battle where incidents like hurling of bombs, indiscriminate firing by anti-social elements, looting of electronic voting machines (EVMs), booth capturing, etc. goes unabated. It is still a mystery how during poll-time, the gentle and mild mannered Bengalis manage to transform themselves into such violent persons. It can now be assumed that no matter how many phases the election will be held in or how many companies of security personnel will be deployed, there will be bloodbath in West Bengal during poll-time. It highlights the fact that conducting peaceful polls in West Bengal is always a big challenge. However, putting the entire blame on EC for not being able to hold peaceful elections is incorrect, EC is entrusted with the job of making arrangements for elections but it is the duty of political parties and the people to make it peaceful. Will the situation ever change in West Bengal?