The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress hits back, tooth for tooth

Behrampore, May 13: The Congress in Murshidabad has shown Mamata Banerjee that the only force that can counter the CPM is an organisation that can match its.

The Congress has more than trebled its presence in the zilla parishad. Its tally has improved from a mere 8 to 29, the gains coming mainly from Domkal, Salanpur and areas adjacent to the district headquarters.

District party chief Adhir Chowdhury had turned to the “organisational skills” honed under his political guru, Somen Mitra, to thwart the muscle power that the CPM is known to wield during an election.

Sensing the Congress’ position in Murshidabad, Mitra himself camped for seven days, helping Chowdhury plug the holes in the party organisation. Murshidabad was the bloodiest district on the day of the poll because the CPM was fought tooth for tooth.

The district intelligence branch failed to provide any input on the growing political tension or the Congress leaders’ plans of an organised retaliation to the CPM’s “terror”.

The outcome of the zilla parishad poll also indicates that the Congress’ “tit-for-tat tactic” against the Marxists stood the party in good stead.

Chowdhury had roped in dissident elements within the CPM and disgruntled elements in the RSP to form a formidable anti-incumbent platform.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas conceded that his party did not do well in the zilla parishad poll in Murshidabad. “We do not know what really led to the poor show. We will undertake a review soon,” he said.

The district, considered a Congress stronghold, witnessed political murders, clashes and incidents of ballot paper snatching on the election day, forcing the administration to order repoll in 31 booths. Of the 18 people killed, eight belonged to the CPM and four to the Congress. The allegiance of the six others, who died in a bomb explosion, was not established.

The virtual absence of any other party in the fray confined the violence to encounters between Congress and CPM supporters.

Chowdhury attributed the spell of violence to two factors. “First, the Congress has become stronger in the district and our party workers are not prepared to concede an inch to the CPM without a fight. Second, the Marxists have considerably lost their support base but the party leaders do not seem to be aware of this unpleasant fact and are inciting the workers to resort to violence.”

The district magistrate conceded that the violence could be attributed to a “stronger Opposition this time”.

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