The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM swept out in loot-and-rape belt

Ranaghat, May 14: In what is being touted as the “Bagchi effect” here following the arrest and expulsion of CPM zonal committee member Subol Bagchi in connection with the Dhantola loot-and-rape outrage, the CPM has lost all four panchayat samities in this subdivision.

The district party leadership chose to remain silent as news of the trouncing came trickling in through the day, but, privately, local party leaders are putting the blame on the manner in which the party had handled the February incident.

The defeat was not confined to Ranaghat II, where Bagchi’s influence is the strongest. The party also lost in Ranaghat I, Shantipur and Hanskhali, home turf of refugee rehabilitation minister Nayan Sarkar. Many of Bagchi’s supporters won as Independents supported by the Trinamul Congress-BJP combine.

In Calcutta, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas put up a brave front, saying the party had lost in many other areas. “This is not significant as we have lost in some areas and won in others. This is what happens in democracy,” he said.

But in Ranaghat the feelings were different. “We had thought earlier that the damage was due to Bagchi’s alleged involvement in the Dhantola incident and the subsequent notion among the locals that he had been made a scapegoat. But we had not bargained for the effect to last outside Ranaghat II. The party has had to pay a heavy price for mishandling the situation,” said Pallab Banerjee, a local CPM zonal committee member.

“This verdict is needed to be taken seriously as the party has to go through the Nabadwip Lok Sabha byelections following Ananda Mohan Biswas’ demise, and all these factors will have to be weighed to put up a decent showing,” Banerjee pointed out. The CPM candidate for the bypoll is Alakesh Das, a close associate of minister Sarkar.

“The party will sit in introspection and analyse the reverses in Ranaghat,” said Nadia CPM secretary Asu Ghosh. He, however, refused comment on the so-called “Bagchi effect” on the party’s showing.

Bagchi, now out on bail, has another explanation for the CPM debacle. “The minister (Sarkar) used foul language against me during campaigning despite the fact that the people knew all along that I was being made a scapegoat. The hate campaign made the people give a fitting reply,” said the man who was recently chargesheeted in the Dhantola case.

“I regret to say that I, along with people like Asim Bala, made Ranaghat a CPM stronghold and now I regret being the destroyer of the party in this election,” Bagchi said.

Saidul Karigar, another CPM member expelled after his arrest in connection with the Dhantola incident, has made it to the Ainsmali panchayat defeating his CPM rival. Karigar is in jail awaiting trial.

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