With the Trinamool Congress having “weakened” and “lost ground”, and arguably at its politically most vulnerable point in West Bengal since ousting the Left Front in 2011, as the Lok Sabha election results show, the CPI(M) has moved in to reopen several party offices that were closed over the last eight years in different parts of the state.
The Trinamool, on its part, accused the BJP of grabbing some of its party offices overnight in different parts, and claimed that the saffron party is helping the Marxists reopen their party offices, an allegation denied by both opposition parties in the state.
Over the last few days, CPI(M) workers have been seen reopening tens of party offices in districts such as Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Bankura, Purulia, Hooghly and North 24 Parganas. These party offices were locked for years.
Samik Lahiri, CPI(M)’s South 24 Parganas district secretary, said: “Over 1,200 party offices were closed across the state since the TMC came to power in 2011. Only 30 or 35 such offices have been reopened recently —- it’s not the number shown by the media. This (reopening offices) was possible since the TMC has weakened. Our workers are finding the courage to open them again.”
Denying that the BJP helped the party reopen its offices, CPI(M) central committee member and MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, “Twenty-seven party offices have been reopened in Cooch Behar district. While 18 were reopened during the (Lok Sabha) election, nine were reopened after the polls. The BJP did not help (us)…the offices could be opened because the TMC has lost ground here for various reasons.”
Among areas where CPI(M) offices have been reopened are Dinhata in Coochbehar, Mahesh and Goghat in Hooghly, Duttapukur and Habra in North 24 Parganas. In Kumargram block of Alipurduar district, the BJP allegedly helped the CPI(M) regain seven small party offices that were earlier allegedly grabbed by the TMC.
The saffron party, according to Trinamool leaders, also helped CPI(M) reopen party offices in Dinhata, Cooch Behar.
Rabindranath Ghosh, TMC MLA from Natabari in Cooch Behar district and former North Bengal Development minister in the Mamata Banerjee government, said: “BJP-backed goons have grabbed our party offices in different areas of Cooch Behar. I personally went there and reclaimed some of them. People are with us.”
Ghosh maintained that the BJP and the CPI(M) are “working together”, and the former is allegedly “helping CPI(M) open their offices”.
On Tuesday, Ghosh visited different parts of Natabari Assembly constituency and was seen apparently reclaiming party offices – he was shown black flags by BJP workers.
TMC leaders also alleged that their party offices in Deochorai Bazaar, Krishnapur, Sitai Bazaar in Cooch Behar was grabbed by BJP supporters, who purportedly removed the party symbols and flags.
“It is not happening in my area, but is happening in other places,” Shisir Adhikari, TMC MP from Kanthi, said. “We will reclaim our offices.”
He added, “Ram and Baam (Left) and helping each other.”
The BJP rubbished the TMC’s claims but stated that since “democracy is returning” to the state, other opposition parties are getting back their offices.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said: “The TMC grabbed offices of opposition parties after coming to power. Now the party’s very existence is in peril and democracy is returning in Bengal. In such a situation opposition parties are getting back their offices and are gathering the courage to reopen closed ones. We have big party offices in districts, which we have set up by buying land…. The BJP does not need to grab any party office.”
In Assembly constituencies such as Barrackpore, Bijpur, Naihati, Bishnupur and Kanchrapara, from where TMC MLAs and municipal councillors have joined the BJP, the ruling party’s offices are being allegedly converted to BJP offices overnight and painted saffron.