April 13: A day after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s appeal to his own party cadre to desist from terrorising candidates of other parties in the run-up to the panchayat elections, the CPM allegedly prevented two RSP candidates from filing nominations in Basanti and Canning, both in South 24-Parganas.
Flooded with complaints from the Trinamul Congress and the Congress, Bhattacharjee had to issue a public statement yesterday urging CPM workers to see to it that candidates from other political parties could file their nominations. He also made it clear that the police administration would take firm steps to ensure free and fair elections.
“But the CPM cadre turned a deaf ear to Bhattacharjee’s appeal. They not only prevented our candidates from filing nominations in Canning and Basanti today but heckled them and set their houses on fire to terrorise them,” complained Subhas Naskar, the RSP secretary of South 24-Parganas and a local MLA.
The RSP, a partner in the ruling coalition, is learnt to have taken up the matter with Left Front chairman Biman Bose. “If the CPM members do not spare our candidates, imagine what happens to the candidates from the Opposition parties,” Naskar said. The CPM cadre did not even bother to listen to the chief minister, he added while regretting that the much-hyped unity bid among the Front partners did not mean much at the grassroots level because of the CPM’s “Big Brother attitude”.
Local CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty dismissed the RSP’s allegation and said members of the smaller front constituents had terrorised CPM supporters in the Basanti-Canning belt because these parties held sway over the region for years.
Additional superintendent of police S.S. Panda, who has been camping in the area, said the Rapid Action Force was deployed after supporters of both the parties clashed. He confirmed that some of the houses were set ablaze and looted. At least 12 people were injured.
Even as the South 24-Parganas leaders of the CPM and the RSP traded charges, the chief minister reiterated that the Front had “set an example to the world” by returning to power in the state for the sixth consecutive time.
Addressing a rally at Dubrajpur in Birbhum, he also reminded that the front was conducting elections to the three-tier panchayat set-up for the sixth time. Decentralisation of power at the panchayat level will help the rural people “enjoy power”, he said.
The rural polls, threatening to get bloody, prompted an alarmed West Midnapore administration to declare 10 police stations as “trouble-prone”.
Officials in the district intelligence today said trouble might erupt at Pingla, Sabang, Garbeta, Salboni, Goaltor, Jamboni, Binpur, Belpahari and Lalgarh in the run-up to the polls. Activists from the ruling CPM and the Opposition parties have already been involved in skirmishes.
“We have taken all possible measures to ensure peace on the basis of intelligence reports about the possible trouble,” said district superintendent of police K.C. Meena. Two more police outposts have been set up at Pingla and Lakmipalia and a circle inspector has been asked to oversee the law and order situation there, he added.
The police have also launched a drive to nab known criminals. Additional superintendent, Kharagpur, Manoj Verma said those arrested would not be released before the elections.