Bengal’s politics is so vitiated that the panchayat polls have also been marked by violent discourse.
Violence is never far from the surface in West Bengal but even by its somewhat elastic standards the toll in this panchayat poll, the fourth phase of which begins today, has been excessive.
An election intended to devolve power to the grassroots has been at the very cost of the people it is meant to empower. Apart from the excessive violence despite the presence of the court-ordered 35,000 security personnel for each phase, what is worrying is the tone of the political discourse, particularly from the Trinamool Congress.
Running down opponents is par for the course in our political system, but incitement to violence is absolutely unacceptable. Yet, Trinamool MP Tapas Pal openly asked the people listening to his speeches to thrash CPI(M) supporters and set their homes ablaze.
Not to be outdone, Birbhum district president of the Trinamool Anubrata Mondal asked his followers to invade, uproot and demolish the homes of independent candidates. He added that if the police tried to stop them, then bombs must be hurled at the police.
With polling not yet over in the five-phase election, over 20 people have already been killed. It is testimony to the terror unleashed by the Trinamool that a record 5,098 of its candidates have been elected unopposed. So far, we have heard nothing from the fiery Trinamool leader and chief minister Mamata Banerjee about her thuggish party leaders.
Even if she does come up with something now, it is of no relevance, she cannot escape complicity in this vile discourse by her partymen. Ensuring that the elections go off smoothly is the responsibility of her party and its leaders.
But the leaders seem to be behaving no better than the lumpen elements who cheer on hearing their bloodthirsty exhortations.
Now the Trinamool may argue that the Left was no slouch when it came to intimidating so-called class enemies. But the Trinamool was supposed to change all that and bring back the culture of decency and civility to Bengal. But what the poriborton has brought about is far worse than the original reign of terror unleashed now and again by the Left.
Apart from this culture of violence and disdain for even institutions like Presidency University, not to mention a grave disregard for women’s rights, the state is floundering economically. While Ms Banerjee, Don Quixote-like, is tilting at Left windmills, the people who voted for change now face an uncertain and unsafe future.
If ever there was a case of going from the Left frying pan into the Trinamool fire, this is it. If a simple panchayat poll results in so much violence and vicious political mudslinging, we shudder to think of how the government will confront much bigger challenges in the days to come.