Limelight will be on Jangalmahal when parts of the three Naxal-hit districts of Bengal — West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — go to polls in the last phase on Monday. But special attention will be reserved for West Midnapore’s Jhargram constituency.
This is where the Trinamool will contest against Chhatradhar Mahato, the jailed spokesperson of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). Mahato, booked under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is under trial.
The Left charges the Trinamool is hand-in-glove with both the PCAPA and Maoists.
In 2009, party chief Mamata Banerjee had shared dais with Mahato, but since the attack on Jnaneswari Express in May 2010 — in which PCAPA involvement was alleged — she distanced from the group.
Jhargram has been in the headlines for over four years —ever since the Maoists made an attempt on the life of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2, 2008. It witnessed police excess following the landmine blast. The core area of the Lalgarh movement was under complete Maoist control for over seven months till the forces reclaimed the area.
Thereafter, it saw the deaths of over a hundred ‘police informers’ and over the last couple of years, the setting up of armed CPM camps, which culminated in January’s Netai carnage killing nine villagers.
Officially, it is a triangular fight between the CPM, Trinamool and the PCAPA. But go past the Jhargram town and the CPM flags and graffitti disappear. The entire area is wrapped in the saffron-white-green of Trinamool and the green-and-white of Mahato.
“The fight is mainly between us and the Trinamool, the CPM is no factor,” confirmed Manoj Mahato, former secretary-spokesperson of the PCAPA. Released recently on bail, he has taken charge of Chhatradhar’s campaign.
On Wednesday, he led a rally of about 1,000 locals at Manikpara, also attended by Chhatradhar’s wife Niyoti. Hectic rallies were held over the weekend, with Trinamool and the PCAPA both addressing the voters on Friday.
The CM has already done his bit on Tuesday, seeking votes for CPM candidate and sitting legislator Amar Basu.
“The parties involved have waged war for two long years in their efforts to capture political ground, now is the time to know which side the people are on,” said Radharaman Mahato, owner of a grocery shop at Manikpara, one of the PCAPA strongholds.
“Nobody has any idea what is going happen, all are holding their breath,” said Dilip Hansda, a labourer in Lodhashuli area.