May 12: After the bloodiest panchayat elections ever, the CPM went on the defensive, crying peace. That is the last thing on Mamata Banerjee’s mind.
Before leaving for Delhi, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee simply said: “The toll has risen.”
Reports of 13 more deaths came in today, taking the toll up to 31, though the official figure was 20. There were incidents of fresh violence in West Midnapore, Murshidabad and North and South 24-Parganas.
Having breathed fresh life into an Opposition, which had all but been buried in the last Assembly polls, through inept handling of the panchayat elections, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas issued a call to rival parties to “give up violence”.
Biswas said: “A death is an irreparable loss to a family. We do not want the state to slide into a bloody situation.”
That is exactly what the state could slide into as the Trinamul leader spoke of a “civil war”.
As the CPM surrendered the political initiative completely to the Opposition, ironically, it turned out to be the biggest victim of the violence during Sunday’s polling and in its aftermath, losing 17 activists among the 25 who died and were claimed as their own by one party or another. No party has owned up the six people who were killed in a bomb explosion in Murshidabad district.
In perhaps the most brutal illustration of the violence that has been searing Bengal for the past few weeks, the mutilated body of a CPM leader in West Midnapore, Basudeb Bhakat, was found in a forest this morning. Bhakat was allegedly kidnapped by Jharkhand Party activists yesterday.
“First he was beaten to death. Then the killers chopped his body with a sharp weapon,” said Jhargram subdivisional officer Ganesh Chowdhury.
End of polling has not meant conclusion of bloodshed. In North 24-Parganas, armed CPM supporters tonight allegedly manhandled Jyotipriya Mullick, a Trinamul MLA from Gaighata, after dragging him out of the car he was travelling in.
Mamata said her party was considering a boycott of the Assembly session till the next election, mass resignation by legislators and a bandh as options to register its protest.
She called on the smaller Left Front partners, who have also been victims of violence, to team up with her to launch a movement like the one led by the late Jayaprakash Narayan in the seventies against Indira Gandhi.
Trinamul legislators would meet on Thursday to decide on a statewide movement demanding Bhattacharjee’s resignation.
On the eve of counting, the chief minister left for Delhi to take part in an interstate council meeting, but flew into a storm of outrage. BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu described the poll as the “biggest fraud played on the people of the state”.
“The BJP and Trinamul intend planning an agitation programme,” he said. The two sides will meet to organise what he called a “people’s movement”.
This is a unity that the CPM seems to have achieved for its rivals. Never the natural bedfellows in Bengal, Trinamul and the BJP are now speaking in one voice. So much so that Bengal BJP leader Tapan Sikdar, whose relations with Mamata have been all sour and no sweet, supported her demand today for imposing President’s rule.
“Bengal is crying for strong Central intervention,” he said.