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CPM anti-rigging plan

- Left party to block highways & lock polling stations

Asansol, May 6: The CPM in Asansol has set up brigades of men and women to resist possible rigging during Lok Sabha polls in the constituency tomorrow.

Local CPM leaders said they had “learnt a lesson” from voting in Burdwan-Durgapur and Burdwan East constituencies on April 30, when around 200 complaints of rigging had been lodged, and had decided to resist “if police and polling officials” did not stop electoral malpractice tomorrow.

The CPM leaders threatened that brigade members would lock up booths and call observers and block NH2 if rigging took place. Women cadres would be “armed” with brooms, the leaders said.

Trinamul had denied the allegation of rigging on April 30 and said the CPM was trying to create trouble.

The Left party held a series of meetings and took the decision after Trinamul activists allegedly threatened with dire consequences CPM workers and supporters who took part in a roadshow by Bangsagopal Chowdhury, the CPM candidate for Asansol yesterday.

The CPM has named the plan “Voters’ Rights Protection Scheme”.

“Trinamul activists threatened our party workers and supporters who joined the roadshow at Shankarpur and Kaligunj. We have lodged a police complaint and set up two brigades of men and women to put up resistance if Trinamul tried to rig the elections tomorrow,” said Pankaj Roy Sarkar, the CPM local committee secretary in Jemua-Bidhannagar.

Burdwan CPM secretary Amal Haldar alleged that Trinamul activists had beaten up Left cadres and resorted to rigging in several booths on April 30. “No action was taken by the Election Commission although we lodged several complaints. In most booths, central forces were not deployed. We have learnt a lesson and will not give the ruling party a free run this time,” he said.

“We had thought that the commission would take steps to ensure free and fair polling, but we were disappointed. So we have decided to resist and protest on our own,” Haldar added.

On April 30, many voters in Burdwan, including this correspondent, had to return without casting their votes after being told by polling officials at the booths that their votes had already been cast.

Roy Sarkar, the CPM local committee secretary, said: “We will inform the police if we get information of rigging. If no action is taken, we will lock up the polling booth and call the observer. We will also block the highway if the police fail to stop rigging. The members of our women brigade have been asked to go to polling booths in small groups. The women will attack Trinamul workers with brooms if they resort to rigging.”

The additional district magistrate and returning officer for Asansol, Amit Dutta, said armed forces would be deployed in all 1,813 booths in Asansol along with 395 micro-observers.

Asked about the CPM’s threat of retaliation, Dutta said: “We will not tolerate any trouble inside and outside booths.”

The BJP, too, is gearing up to resist possible rigging.

Party candidate Babul Supriyo said he had given his cellphone numbers to all party workers who would be present at the booths and also to the voters he knows.

“The only thing I can do is rush to polling booths where rigging will take place and try to resist. I will call the observers and the police,” the singer said.

Supriyo has prepared a map of Asansol, indicating shortcuts to booths. “The shortcut routes will help me reach affected booths faster with my party workers,” he said.

V. Sivdasan, the Trinamul organising secretary in Asansol, said it was “clear” that the CPM and the BJP were “trying to create trouble” during polling tomorrow. “We do not need to rig as people are ready to bless our candidate. The CPM and the BJP have joined hands to rig votes. The people will resist them,” he said.