Calcutta, March 22: The selection of panchayat poll dates that club the three Congress-dominated districts together in one phase has sparked protests from the party, which has expressed fears of lopsided police deployment and Trinamul strongarm tactics.
“The government’s decision to single out Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur, where we are at the helm of zilla parishads, is politically motivated and aimed at ensuring Trinamul’s victory by hook or by crook. This betrays the government’s fascist attitude,” state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya alleged tonight over phone from Delhi.
Elections will be held in the three districts on April 30, while the rest of the 14 districts will go to polls on April 26.
“Trinamul’s game plan is to deploy all its activists in Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur to rig the polls. As the elections in the rest of the districts will be over by then, they will be free to work on our strongholds,” Bhattacharya said.
Another Congress leader said the government planned to deploy its entire armed forces on poll duty in the three districts “to keep a leash on our workers”. “On the flip side, the police deployment in the remaining 14 districts will be thin so as to give Trinamul activists a free hand,” the Congress leader said.
He said he apprehended that the state police would “look the other way” and “not take action against Trinamul activists even if they assault the Opposition or rig the polls”. “That is why the state government does not want central forces,” the leader added.
Bengal Congress chief Bhattacharya urged the state election commission to “save the democratic rights of the rural electorate” by rejecting the government’s decision. “The Trinamul government is determined to trample the democratic rights of the rural electorate and I call upon the poll panel to protect it by rejecting the unilateral announcement of the poll dates,” he added.
Bhattacharya said he requested the Prime Minister this afternoon to ensure that central forces were deployed for the rural polls. “The state government is against deployment of central forces because it does not want free and fair elections,” he added.
Congress district presidents and state unit general secretaries said they would speak about their grievances to AICC Bengal in-charge Shakeel Ahmed when he meets them in Calcutta on March 30. “We are not going to accept the decision to hold elections in the three Congress-dominated districts on a single day and the remaining 14 on another,” said Santosh Pathak, the Congress Burrobazar district chief.
The state BJP leadership said it would move court against the government’s decision. “We have discussed the issue and plan to move court against the government’s decision,” state BJP president Rahul Sinha said tonight.
Sinha said he feared large-scale violence if central forces were not deployed. “Trinamul activists indulged in violence in students’ union elections in colleges in the presence of state police personnel. We fear the same thing will happen in the panchayat polls,” he said.
CPM leaders said they would comment only after seeing how the state election commission reacted to the government’s decision. “The government’s decision is one-sided. But at this moment, we are not commenting on the matter. We will speak on the issue only after seeing how the poll panel handles the matter tomorrow,” said CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb, who looks into election-related matters on behalf of the party.
RSP leader Kshiti Goswami said the Left Front would discuss its strategy tomorrow.
The Congress today did not vote with the Left on the adjournment motion on law and order moved by Opposition leader Surjya Kanta Mishra.
While the Congress officially maintained that it could not risk being “bracketed” with the CPM, many in the party conceded that Mamata Banerjee’s support to the UPA government on the Sri Lanka issue had restricted their options.