A day after the results, the CPM claimed at least “200 cases of violence” against its cadres overnight, as well as attacks on its offices across the state. It said frantic cadres had been calling in since the results about the attacks, and that its offices had been burnt down or vandalised. On Sunday, an old office staffer sat at the head of a long table inside the party headquarters Melarmath here, with his cellphone glued to his ear, taking down reports of alleged cases of violence against CPM workers and supporters in a long register. He had already covered three whole pages, he said.
From across the state, reports were filtering in of fights breaking out between youth workers of the CPM and BJP, though police said the situation had not escalated enough to warrant action. While the street outside the headquarters, from which the CPM office takes its name, stood deserted Sunday, the office itself was teeming. Party leaders from across the city and state kept dropping in.
In a ‘computer room’ at the headquarters, an office manager was busy on the phone as well, recording the incidents in an Excel sheet on his computer. “What are the incidents? Eight offices broken? And how many others vandalised?” he asked a person on the other side. A CPM MP from Tripura and one of the state’s most popular leaders, Jitendra Chaudhary, said, “There have been 200 cases of violence since last night as far as we know.”
He and the other comrades at the headquarters were all bleary-eyed, many claiming to not have slept through the night as they fielded calls from distressed party workers and displaced polling agents from different districts. “Many of our polling agents have had to leave home and have taken shelter with friends and family in other districts,” said a CPM worker.
Reports came in of the CPM Khowai local committee office being “captured” by BJP workers. CPM leaders shared picture of the office with its Roman pillars, showing BJP flags flying atop, with posters of its local candidate Amit Rakshit adorning the walls. Among the party offices that the CPM said had been vandalised were the ones at the Mohanpur sub-division and Boxanagar.
CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar, who arrived for a state committee meeting to discuss the results, said, “Police are not doing anything. You see, we are no longer in government. This kind of violence is likely to continue for the next couple of days, at least till the swearing-in. And then maybe for a couple of days after that. Let’s see what happens.” Chaudhary added, “The analysis of the election results, the way forward… all of that are issues for another day. Right now our immediate issue is how to defend and support our comrades and workers. That is the only order of the meeting today.”
Waiting for Manik Sarkar to arrive and chair the meeting — he submitted his resignation as Chief Minister to Governor Tathagata Roy earlier in the day — Chaudhury, however, went on to muse about the “debacle”. “It is not sudden, it cannot be sudden. If a government is in power for 25 years, the anti-incumbency is bound to be high. Moreover, things actually became bad after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014… Modi’s right-wing politics is one of vindictive politics,” he said.
The CPM MP also accused the BJP of igniting “tribal chauvinism”, and said the divide between Bengalis and tribals was what decided the “floating voter” in the BJP’s favour. “But the IPFT is a separatist party. And its honeymoon with BJP will be shortlived. I guarantee it… I also guarantee the BJP will be unable to implement the 7th Pay Commission that they have talked so much about. There is a procedure; it is not that simple.”
A CPM worker sitting in another corner of the office said that by Monday, Sarkar would move out of the CM’s official residence into a guesthouse at Melarmath. His wife Panchali Bhattacharya, the worker said, would move in with relatives. On Sunday, the CM’s residence, on Marx Engel’s Sarani road, was deathly quiet. Among the few visitors was a group of 10 women from one of the CPM’s many committees, there to meet Bhattacharya, who was believed to have taken ill.