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In den, limping Left needs police crutch

Durgapur, June 2: A rub-your-eyes-in-disbelief moment greeted onlookers during the CPM’s campaign in Durgapur for Sunday’s civic polls.

The CPM was forced to campaign with police protection in a district that had been a Left citadel for over three decades, so endangered is its existence in the face of a Trinamul onslaught since the Assembly elections last year.

CPM leaders mostly campaigned either early in the morning or late at night, often secretly. They alleged “Trinamul goons” threatened and assaulted their candidates.

“We were often not allowed to campaign. Trinamul has unleashed a reign of terror in Durgapur, Haldia and Panskura,” a CPM leader said.

Pankaj Roy Sarkar, a CPM local committee secretary in Durgapur, said: “We went from door to door in small groups either early in the morning or at night. Often, we had to go to the voters’ houses secretly. We had to campaign with police escort on some occasions.”

The Left had won 37 of the 43 seats in the Durgapur Municipal Corporation in the last civic polls. But the CPM trailed in 33 of the 43 wards in last year’s Assembly elections, a pointer to the extent to which the party’s support base has eroded in the former bastion.

Trinamul claimed the Left was levelling false charges at the ruling party after “losing the people’s support”.

The CPM today alleged that Trinamul had “hired goons from outside” to “rig” the elections to the six civic bodies, especially in Durgapur and Birbhum’s Nalhati.

CPM state secretariat member Mohammad Salim said: “Trinamul-backed criminals have gone to Durgapur from Calcutta, Howrah and Birbhum. Trinamul wants these hoodlums to manipulate the poll process by creating terror. They will rig the elections.”

“If this is the situation, how will we contest the polls? In many places, our supporters were driven out of their homes and threatened with dire consequences if they voted,’’ he added.

CPM insiders hope the lack of an alliance between Trinamul and the Congress could help the Left. They said there were “disagreements” in Trinamul over the choice of mayoral candidate Apurba Mukherjee and other nominees.

A Trinamul leader also spoke about the discontentment. “Genuine party workers were neglected while selecting the candidates. A promoter whose relative is a party MLA in Calcutta played a key role in selecting at least 18 nominees. Apurba does not have any contact with the people, yet he is being projected as the mayoral candidate,” he said.