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Mamata drives CPM out of panchayat Bengal

This election is TMC’s prestige fight as the Left Front is in charge of panchayats in 13 districts out of 17. Congress and TMC hold 2 each.

SUSENJIT GUHA  Kolkata | 20th Jul 2013

A house was ransacked in Friday’s political clash during third phase of Panchayat polls in Howrah district of West Bengal on Saturday. PTI

he Trinamool Congress virtually took over from the Communist Party of India-Marxist in "monitoring" polling booths during the crucial third phase of the Howrah, North and South 24 Parganas district panchayat polls. This election is TMC's prestige fight as the Left Front is in charge of panchayats in 13 districts out of 17. Congress and TMC hold 2 each.

Majid Master, a former North 24 Parganas district committee of the CPM, famous for his strong arm tactics in the money spinning fishing hub of Sashan, was holed up in a relative's house 8 km away in Barasat town with his wife and daughter.

Fearing an attack from TMC supporters, Begum, who is contesting on a CPM ticket, voted early in the morning with her daughter and went back, but Master did not venture out. A hapless Master could only instruct his cadres over mobile phone to try their best to at least ensure that CPM supporters in his constituency could come out and vote.

CPM's Rezzak Mollah, the former Minister for Land and Land Reforms, who has retained his East Canning constituency seat in South 24 Parganas since 1977, when the Left Front came to power, lamented how TMC supporters started storming the polling booth soon after he casted his vote and went away.

Mollah, admitting that his party, faced with TMC's vote garnering tactics, failed to dig into the rural electorate after being uprooted from power. "I am virtually in exile and see no chances of an immediate change in our prospects," he said. Sattar Mollah, the CPM candidate from violence prone Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, is in jail after the police arrested him following the murder of a TMC supporter.

Not a single CPM flag was visible at Barrakpore, which till a few years ago was considered an impregnable "red bastion". Faced with a replication of CPM's false voting, booth capturing and jamming tactics, the Left Front chairman Biman Bose alluded to the 1972 elections, when the Congress party in power ensured opposition candidates and supporters could not leave their houses on polling day.

"In many places, the TMC symbol on ballot papers was already stamped. It was like the 1972 elections," said Bose. The Opposition blamed the state government for not utilising the paramilitary forces and confining them only to polling stations in areas where the TMC was weak.

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