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Durgapur civic polls: Opposition gears up, says will be a repeat of last time’s ‘violence’

State BJP vice-president and party election observer for Durgapur Municipal Corporation, Subhas Sarkar, said the ruling Trinamool Congress has been orchestrating violence to force Opposition candidates to withdraw their nominations.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
August 1, 2017 6:05:54 am
West Bengal BJP vice-president Subhas Sarkar. (PTI File Photo)

Ahead of the upcoming civic polls in West Bengal, all eyes are on Durgapur Municipal Corporation, with the Opposition expressing “apprehension” over the political climate in the region. Opposition parties said that the election in Durgapur — the largest civic body among the seven going to polls — would be a repeat of the previous election, which was marred by violence. Polls for Durgapur Municipal Corporation in West Burdwan, Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri, Buniadpur in South Dinajpur, Coopers’ Camp Notified Area in Nadia, Nalhati Municipality in Birbhum and Panskura and Haldia municipalities in East Midnapore will be held on August 13.

State BJP vice-president and party election observer for Durgapur Municipal Corporation, Subhas Sarkar, said the ruling Trinamool Congress has been orchestrating violence to force Opposition candidates to withdraw their nominations. “Just like they indulged in violence and electoral malpractices during last civic polls, TMC workers at the instruction of party leadership have been threatening our workers and candidates. We had fielded our candidates in every ward of the corporation, and two of our candidates were forced to withdraw,” Sarkar told The Indian Express.

In the 43-ward Durgapur Municipal Corporation, the BJP has fielded candidates in 41 wards. The TMC had won four municipalities in the previous civic polls which were held in May this year — one in Darjeeling hills and three in the plains — while Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) won three civic bodies in the Hills including Darjeeling. The elections had been marred by unprecedented violence which left several people injured. The Opposition had dubbed the polls a farce, and said the State Election Commission had failed to discharge its duties.

CPM leader and former MLA Gouranga Chatterjee said Opposition women candidates are being targeted by TMC activists. “This time, we are witnessing an increased attack on women candidates. TMC activists think that women candidates are easy targets, and can be intimidated. Still there are some candidates who will not succumb to such pressure tactics. The ruling party is trying to create a fear psychosis among voters and candidates ahead of the civic polls,” Chatterjee told The Indian Express.

The CPM leader said TMC workers also prevented its candidates from organising rallies and meetings in Durgapur. The Left Front has fielded its candidates in 35 wards in Durgapur, while Congress has fielded candidates in 9 wards. From the Left Front, CPM has fielded candidates in 31 wards, while its ally CPI fielded candidates in 3 wards — out of which one candidate withdrew. The Forward Bloc fielded a candidate in one ward. One out of nine Congress candidates withdrew his nomination. The civic polls are being fought jointly by Left Front and Congress.

Out of 43 wards in Durgapur Municipal Corporation, TMC has already won one uncontested. Therefore, elections will be held in the other 42 wards.  Congress leader Riju Ghoshal said the situation is grim in Durgapur, and that Opposition parties are not being allowed to participate in the democratic process. “One of our women candidates was forced to withdraw. There is no atmosphere for an election there, and TMC is determined to repeat the tactics it used in previous civic polls to wipe out the Opposition. The present State Election Commission is absolutely a stooge of the government. It has neither exercised its constitutional power, not does it have any intention to exercise the constitutional powers vested with it,” said Ghoshal.

The Trinamool Congress, however, denied such allegations and said the Opposition has already conceded their defeat in the upcoming civic polls. “They are crying foul. It seems they have already conceded their defeats, as people of the municipal area are with the Trinamool Congress and not them,” said a local TMC leader.

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