The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Muscle flex for votes
Walkover in wards as cadre take over

By resorting to muscle power and ingenious rigging in various areas of Calcutta, CPM cadre revealed on Sunday how votes are mustered and elections won.

And the Opposition parties were left asking why a government, that was trying to set an example of 'fair governance' in Salt Lake, was doing exactly the opposite in Calcutta.

From Kidderpore to Amherst Street, Behala to Sealdah, political parties tried to outdo each other to grab votes. Not to be left behind, Congress and Trinamul Congress, as much as the ruling party, hurled bombs and fired bullets to win the ballot battle.

At Metiabruz, the CPM slowed the voting process by challenging genuine voters who had turned up with valid documents, but without a voter's identity card.

As the queues lengthened and tension heightened, polling agents of opposition parties were thrown out. At Meher Manzil High School, in Garden Reach, the Congress and the Independent candidate withdrew their respective polling agents as early as 9.30 am, resulting in a virtual walkover for the CPM.

'The CPM is using strong-arm tactics by not allowing voters into booths. Their cadre are casting all the votes. Is this an example of good governance' I have withdrawn my polling agents from the booths,' said Tabassum Ara, Congress candidate in ward 134.

In ward 135 in Garden Reach, CPI contestant Muntajum Ahmed's brother, Tanjim Ahmed, smashed the electronic voting machine and intimidated voters around 11 am. He was arrested later in the afternoon, and a repoll ordered.

Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee demanded chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's resignation, accusing him of deploying cadre to rig the polls.

'It's shameful of the chief minister of a state to be present in his Assembly area to help cadre rig the polls by driving out our agents from the booths,' Banerjee alleged.

Four Congress supporters, including the husband of Aparajita Dasgupta, the candidate of ward 49, were beaten up severely in front of Surendra Nath College in Sealdah around 10.30 am. A group of CPM activists attacked them while they were on their way to the polling booth.

In another display of CPM might, Debasish Lahiri, a Congress-supported Independent candidate from ward 38, in Amherst Street, was brutally assaulted and his candidature card snatched. 'They pushed him out and some youths, I have never seen before, entered the booths. The voting was over by noon,' said Aloke Debnath, a local resident. In several areas of the city, more than 60 per cent polling was over before noon.

Referring to incidents of booth-jamming, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the CPM would win in at least 25 wards in the city by virtue of rigging. 'CPM cadre have terrorised agents of Opposition parties in almost all booths to rig the polls. This is everything but not good governance, ' he added.

If the CPM cadre were in charge in most parts of the city, the Congress and Trinamul were not far behind. Humayun Khan, CPM polling agent, left the booth in pain, his left eye badly damaged in Aftani Public School, in Beniapukur. Trinamul toughs were accused of throwing bombs and firing four gunshots in Garden Reach's ward 136 around 10 am.

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