Spotlight on Jhargram in last leg of polls | india | Hindustan Times
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Spotlight on Jhargram in last leg of polls

It’s the only constituency where one of the candidates is a man booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Not only is Chhatradhar Mahato expected to put up a tough fight, he is the favourite in many an area of Jhargram. Snigdhendu Bhattacharya reports.

india Updated: May 06, 2011 16:09 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

It’s the only constituency where one of the candidates is a man booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Not only is Chhatradhar Mahato expected to put up a tough fight, he is the favourite in many an area of Jhargram.

This is the constituency that has been witness to one of the worst ever train tragedies of all times — the Gyaneshwari Express derailment that left 148 people dead.

As Jangalmahal — the three Naxalite-hit districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — goes to polls in the last two phases, special attention will be reserved for Jhargram constituency, where polling is to be held on May 10.

This is where the Trinamool candidate will contest against Mahato, the jailed spokesperson of the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA). Trinamool has often been accused by the Left of being hand in glove with the PCAPA and the Maoists.

In 2009, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee had even shared dais with Mahato, but since the attack on Gyaneshwari Express in May 2010, in which PCAPA involvement was alleged, she has been careful to maintain a distance from the group.

Jhargram has been in the news for more that four years — ever since Maoists made an attempt on the life of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on November 2, 2008. It witnessed police excesses following the landmine blast and, as the core area of the Lalgarh movement, remained in complete Maoist control for more than seven months till the joint forces reclaimed the area.

Thereafter, Jhargram has seen the death of more than a hundred police informers and the setting up of armed CPI(M) camps, which culminated in the Netai firing in January. Officially, it is a triangular fight between the CPI(M), Trinamool and the PCAPA here. But go past Jhargram town and the CPI(M) flags and graffiti 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,” said Manoj Mahato, former secretary-spokesperson of the PCAPA. Released recently on bail, he has taken charge of Chhatradhar Mahato’s campaign. Hectic rallies will be held over the weekend with Trinamool and PCAPA both addressing voters on Friday. The Trinamool chief herself will campaign for her candidate.

The chief minister has already done his bit on Tuesday, seeking votes for CPI(M) candidate and sitting MLA 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, a PCAPA stronghold.