Preventing violence in panchayat polls

The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the panchayat poll process in West Bengal. The apex court has not gone into the veracity or otherwise of State BJP’s complaint that its candidates are not being allowed to file their nomination papers. It has directed the party to approach the State Election Commissioner with their grievances. Complaints of Trinamool Congress supporters preventing opposition parties – not merely BJP but the Left and Congress also – have been pouring in from all over the State. Regular clashes between the TMC and other parties, especially the BJP, lend credence to the opposition charge. The TMC stand is that the Opposition parties are so weak organizationally and so isolated from the people that they are not getting candidates and are blaming the TMC instead.
There is no doubt that compared to the TMC the Opposition parties are very weak. At many places they are finding it difficult to get candidates. Even the CPI-M finds itself in total organizational disarray in its former strongholds like Barddhaman and the two Medinipur districts. Equally, there is no doubt that TMC activists are also threatening and physically preventing candidates of other parties from filing dominations.  This is inexplicable. If the TMC is in an unassailable position in rural Bengal, there is no reason why it should use force to prevent Opposition candidates from contesting. For the widespread violence in Mahammadbazar in Birbhum district, the TMC has blamed the BJP, accusing it of ‘importing’ armed ‘outsiders’ from Jharkhand. If so, then it is a failure of the State police and therefore of the State Government run by the TMC.
What the people of rural Bengal want is violence-free, fair and peaceful panchayat poll. It will be politically self-defeating for the TMC to resort to undemocratic means to make rural Bengal Opposition-mukt, even as the party rightly condemns Modi-Shah duo’s call for a Congress-mukt Bharat. Preventing Opposition from contesting is not only undemocratic; in the long run it is suicidal. The example of the CPI-M which held both rural and urban West Bengal in its vise-like grip for nearly three and a half decades should serve as a lesson for the TMC. No political party can survive or retain power without the spontaneous support of the people. Use of force only exposes the weakness of a party. If the people of rural Bengal are all for Didi’s development work, where is the need to use violence?

Tuesday, 17 April, 2018