Ballygunge bypoll: Anti-CAA forum backs CPM face Saira Shah Halim
A forum of anti-CAA and anti-NRC activists on Saturday pledged support to CPM candidate Saira Shah Halim for the April 12 Ballygunge Assembly bypoll, a day after some of them were arrested ahead of a rally to urge people not to vote for Trinamul’s Babul Supriyo or the BJP’s Keya Ghosh.
“We will support Saira Shah Halim as she participated in the anti-CAA and anti-NRC movements in 2019 with us. She is the strongest secular candidate for the Ballygunge bypoll,” said Left-leaning economist Prasenjit Bose, one of the main organisers of the anti-CAA citizens’ movement in Calcutta, at a news meet.
Police arrested Bose and 25 others on Saturday before they could begin the rally. They were later released from Lalbazar.
The anti-NRC and anti-CAA forum has decided to carry on with their campaign against Supriyo, who defected to Trinamul from the BJP, and Ghosh. On April 7, the activists will organise a rally in support of Halim, where she will also be present.
Bose clarified that support for Halim doesn’t necessarily mean that the forum is backing the CPM as a whole.
“In Ballygunge she is the strongest secular opponent. We can support any other candidate, for that matter a Congress candidate, in some other election,” Bose said.
On Friday, the activists had claimed they had permission to hold a campaign rally in favour of an Independent candidate in Ballygunge. The rally would have sent out an appeal to Ballygunge residents to neither vote for Trinamul candidate Supriyo nor the BJP. But as the participants started gathering in front of Park Circus to start the rally, the police arrested them.
Bose alleged on Saturday that the police were working as “the foot soldiers” of Trinamul and “illegally disrupted” a rally for which the organisers had permission from the Election Commission of India.
“We didn’t imagine that the police would stoop so low. But now we have changed our strategy. We will support one candidate to take out a rally. Hence we chose Halim,” a source in the forum said.
This person added that the primary aim was to sensitise people about the “misdeeds” of former BJP MP from Asansol and ex-junior Union minister Supriyo, who had been vocal against anti-CAA protesters while in that party.