The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies speak in many voices, not Opposition

May 11: The CPM said the election could have been more violent and Bengal could witness more deaths if its cadre had retaliated to the attacks by the Opposition even as the Trinamul Congress reiterated its demand for President’s rule and the Congress voiced support.

“We had specifically instructed our cadre not to get provoked by any means and they have responded positively to our appeal. Our activists have handled the election with great patience, otherwise, there could have been more deaths,” CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said when asked to justify today’s toll.

The sixth panchayat election was probably the most violent with 11 people killed in clashes. In the 1998 election, four persons had died in poll-related violence.

Biswas held the Opposition parties responsible for the deaths today. “Large-scale provocation by the Opposition parties and their involvement in violent activities led to the deaths and we are really sorry for this,” Biswas said at the party headquarters.

He claimed that six of the dead were CPM supporters. Two Congress activists, two Trinamul supporters and two SUCI workers also died in clashes during the day, he added.

Biswas identified the Congress as the prime aggressor and said the party masterminded assaults in Murshidabad and Malda. SUCI followed the Congress, said Biswas, accusing the party of “organising attacks” on the CPM in South 24-Parganas.

Both Biswas and Left Front chairman Biman Bose felt the poll was by and large peaceful. But sections of the front differed.

RSP leader and former minister Kshiti Goswami refused to describe the election as peaceful. “How can we say that' So many people have died, hundreds of booths were captured by CPM activists. If we call this election peaceful, people of Bengal will not forgive us,” he said.

PWD minister and RSP leader Amar Chowdhury was again heckled today by the CPM cadre at Atharobaki in Canning. Chowdhury and party MLA Subhas Naskar had gone there to rescue an RSP worker who was being thrashed by the cadre.

Chowdhury was chased out of a village in North 24-Parganas by the cadre when he went there to campaign last week. Today, his car was mobbed but police rescued the minister and the MLA.

Members of Trinamul’s legislature party would meet on May 15 to decide the course of action, said Mamata Banerjee.

“The time has come to launch a vigorous movement to expose how the CPM resorted to terror tactics to rig today’s poll,” Mamata said.

The Congress seized the opportunity. “We shall be with the Trinamul leader if she is able to convince the Centre on imposing Article 355 or 356 in the state. The law and order situation in Bengal is really alarming,” said state Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee.

The BJP demanded that the entire poll process be started afresh. “Today’s election is a farce, the electorate was terrorised by the ruling CPM,” alleged state party chief Tathagata Roy.

The Forward Bloc, however, toed the CPM line on the day’s events. State party secretary Ashok Ghosh said it was “peaceful”.

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