Rufta Bibi (42) from Karidhya village at Suri in Birbhum, about 330 km from Kolkata, will cast her vote without her husband for the first time ever since her marriage 17 years ago. Rufta’s husband, Dildar Sheikh, was one of the many people who were killed during last year’s panchayat poll violence in the state. Dildar is now survived by his three minor daughters and wife.
“Will any party be able to bring my husband back? Can anyone do something to lessen the burden I have on my shoulders?” said Rufta. However, despite the anguish, she will cast vote on Monday.
“I have promised my neighbours and I will keep my word. It is my right as a citizen, so, I will exercise it, but it doesn’t hold any meaning for me,” she told The Indian Express.
After Dildar was killed, several political party leaders met her and assured her help, but it took her eight months to get a job of a peon in Zilla Parishad.
“I had to run from pillar to post and after an eight-month struggle, I got the job of a peon. My salary is just Rs 5,000. I will vote just to be part of the society. It doesn’t matter to me who wins the election. I have lost my husband and nothing is going to change that,” she added.
Dildar was killed and several others were injured as TMC and BJP workers clashed in Suri during the filing of nominations for the state panchayat elections in 2018. Following his death, both the TMC and the BJP claimed him to be their party workers.
While TMC district president claimed that “BJP goons from Jharkhand killed Dildar”, BJP’s Ram Krishna Roy and other leaders had said he was killed by TMC workers. It is still not confirmed how he got killed and by whom.
“Amar eshob vote niye bhebe ki hobe? Vote debo jate grambashir lok khushi thake ((I don’t bother about the elections anymore. I will vote so that the villagers are happy),” said Anguri Bibi, Dildar’s mother.
Birbhum is one of the eight constituencies that will go to polls Monday in the fourth phase. Known as the land of the red soil, Birbhum, in recent years, has turned into one of the most politically volatile districts, witnessing a series of clashes between political parties, leaving a number of people dead, injured and homeless.
The Congress dominated this seat (Birbhum) between 1952 and 1971 after which the CPI(M) ruled it for 10 consecutive terms — from 1971 to 2009 — with Ramchandra Dome winning it six times on the trot before shifting base to the now reserved seat of Bolpur.
The CPM lost the seat to TMC in 2009. TMC’s Satabdi Roy is seeking re-election for the third consecutive term this time. Facing her is BJP’s Dudh Kumar Mondal, CPM’s Rezaul Karim and Imam Hossain of the Congress.
Birbhum saw some of the worst violences during the panchayat elections where opposition candidates alleged that they were not allowed to file nomination papers. Dubrajpur, Suri, Sainthia, Rampurhat, Hansan, Nalhati and Murarai are the seven assembly segments under Birbhum Lok Sabha constituency.
The TMC swept the panchayat polls in the state with the BJP emerging a distant second in most districts of the state, leaving the CPI(M) and the Congress behind.
“Votes were looted and many couldn’t vote. Many voters would want to exercise their rights this time, and who knows, which way the wind will blow! It is also true that the present MP has done a lot of development works and going by that, the TMC has a fair chance in Birbhum,” a local resident said on condition of anonymity.
The Election Commission is also treating Birbhum as sensitive and apart from Asansol, central forces will be deputed here as well. The Commission had also shunted out Birbhum police superintendent, Shyam Singh recently. “At least 98 per cent booths will have central forces,” said Special Police observer Vivek Dube. “Some areas will need 100 per cent CAPF and deployment has been planned accordingly,” said another official.