KOLKATA: Seeking to draw lessons from the large-scale violence and intimidation ahead of the 2018 panchayat elections in West Bengal, which was cited as one of the reasons for its unflattering harvest in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the ruling Trinamool has directed its charges to refrain from violence in the run-up to the forthcoming municipal elections in the state. The party, say observers, wants the ensuing polls to help it assess where it stands ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in 2021.
With a resurgent BJP, which made significant inroads in the 2019 LS polls, likely to highlight the state’s violent poll record and deteriorating law and order situation on Trinamool’s watch in its civic poll campaign, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked her party’s ground force to ensure peaceful civic polls, a senior party leader said. “Apart from playing their trademark divisive politics, top BJP leaders had raised the violence ahead of the 2018 panchayat elections to evoke voter sympathy ahead of the last Lok Sabha elections.
Their campaign cost us bad as our tally was reduced from 34 to 22. The civic polls are crucial as they will give us a fair idea of where we stand ahead of the next Assembly elections. This time, we won’t give the BJP a reason to accuse us of unleashing violence. If we can ensure a peaceful conduct of the municipal polls, the BJP will have no political stick to beat us with,” the Trinamool leader said. The Trinamool leadership has conveyed a clear message to its district units that the police will act impartially during the polls and any attempt to influence them won’t be tolerated, another ruling party leader said. Party insiders said that the idea of conducting peaceful civic polls was floated by ace election strategist Prashant Kishor, who was hired by the ruling party after the BJP improved its tally from 2 to 18 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections.
“The resentment among a section of voters, who couldn’t exercise their franchise in the panchayat polls, hurt us in the LS elections,” another Trinamool leader said. “Never before had the state seen such violence as in the recent past. The Trinamool had to pay for it and did in the LS polls. The bloodbath is still fresh in people’s minds and they would give a befitting reply in the civic polls and the next Assembly elections,” Sayantan Bose, BJP general secretary, said.
Peaceful polls a brainwave of Prashant Kishor
Trinamool insiders said that the idea of conducting peaceful civic polls was floated by ace election strategist Prashant Kishor, who was hired by the ruling party after the loss of the seats in LS polls.
2018 panchayat elections
58,692 Seats contested
20,159 Seats won uncontested
13 Persons killed in incidents of poll-related violence
50+ Persons injured in incidents of violence
Fallout The political violence seemed to have benefitted the ruling Trinamool, as opposition parties failed to field nominees in 34 per cent of the seats across the districts
2019 Lok Sabha elections
18 Persons killed in poll-related violence
70+ Persons injured in poll-related violence
For the first time in the country’s electoral history, the Election Commission invoked Article 324 in West Bengal and curtailed the campaign timings in nine Lok Sabha constituencies by 20 hours.