The allegation: the CPM is mowing down political opponents and, sometimes, even alliance partners in the race to a record number of panchayat seats.
The complainant: not Mamata Banerjee, but state social welfare and jail minister Biswanath Chowdhury.
Humiliated and forced to call off a meeting on his home ground at Hili in South Dinajpur, Chowdhury — a central secretariat member of the RSP — rang up The Telegraph on Friday night to complain against the CPM’s strategy of browbeating panchayat poll candidates of all other parties.
“I cannot believe that they have done this to me,” Chowdhury said. “I am the leader of a party (in the Assembly) that is a partner in this government,” he added.
“If they can do this to a minister who has been in the government for several terms, I shudder to think what the fate of the other Opposition parties is,” the minister said, hours after being forced to call off the RSP meeting in the Hili area.
The meeting started around 8 pm. “From the very start, there were complaints that our supporters were being denied access to the venue by the CPM’s cadre,” Chowdhury said. “But I told our supporters to ignore the threats for the sake of peace and front unity,” he added.
Minutes into the meeting, however, Chowdhury saw a group of about 15 people — led by a person on a motorbike — circling the cluster of RSP supporters who were having a lantern-lit meeting, common in powerless rural areas.
“I again told everyone to ignore them,” the minister said. “But they continued to approach the centre of our group — where I was sitting — and told everyone to pack up,” he added.
Frightened, many of the villagers ran off. The minister said he stayed behind to calm down his party colleagues but the meeting had to be called off.