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A field day for rivals

With Trinamool Congress making inroads into villages, erstwhile rural lords have made way for new ones owing allegiance to the ruling party.

kolkata Updated: Aug 12, 2013 12:37 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

In Murshidabad, Humayun Kabir, who broke away from Adhir Choudhury’s team and joined the Trinamool Congress to become a minister, had lost half the battle to his former political boss when Kabir was defeated in the Assembly by-elections earlier this year.

The panchayat elections proved that Kabir, on whom the Trinamool was depending on heavily to eat into Choudhury’s bastion, was nowhere close to Choudhury in terms of domination.

Except the Behrampore MP and Murshidabad district Congress president, all other political strongmen ruling large tracts of rural Bengal have made way for successors belonging to the opposition party.

The new lords have replaced the old lords of the fields. The panchayat elections brought forward the new political authorities who replaced once-unchallengeable faces of the Left Front, especially the CPI(M).

While most of the new ‘lords’ do not match the weight of the names of their predecessors, it took those CPI(M) leaders several years to become the name that they were.

Sushanta Ghosh, Garbeta MLA and former western region development minister, who had the last word in Garbeta for years and led the party’s crushing victory against Trinamool-BJP’s ‘terror’ during 1998-2001, could not visit his constituency for the poll campaign either.

Once a popular face of the party in politically disturbed areas across the state, even in 2011, Ghosh was kept out of CPI(M)’s poll campaign team this year.

Talking to HT over the phone, Ghosh, who now lives in Kolkata, described how the Trinamool Congress brigade led by Garbeta block president, Asim Ojha, turned the 2013 panchayat elections into a ‘farce’.

“Garbeta has never seen such an election. While we could not contest in gram panchayat and panchayat samiti seats, there are several booths where our zilla parishad candidates got one to nine votes against hundreds secured by the Trinamool,” Ghosh said. He gave examples of Sanmura booth, where the CPI(M) got six votes against Trinamool’s 821, Barui where CPI(M) got 10 votes against Trinamool’s 956 and Simulia booth where CPI(M) got five votes against Trinamool’s 664 votes.

The examples are from Garbeta I block’s Belmura-Sanmura gram panchayat area, where CPI(M) won all the seats uncontested in 2003 and 2008 gram panchayat elections.

But Ghosh denied that his party ever rigged the polls to secure uncontested or mammoth margin victories.

“We, too, used to win those Assembly seats by huge margins but that was because people rejected Trinamool so strongly. But in Trinamool’s era, people are simply not allowed to vote,” Ghosh told HT. Ghosh’s comrade Tarun Roy, CPI(M) state committee member and once the undisputed leader of Keshpur, meets no better fate.

In the sixties, Roy began his political journey by capturing excess land owned by his father, Debendranath Roy, and distributing them among the landless.

After the first panchayat elections, in 1978, Roy became the sabhapati of Keshpur panchayat samiti. He never contested polls since then but gradually became the all-in-all of CPI(M) in Keshpur.

Roy led the party from the front during the three years of infamous political violence between 1998-2001 and ensured the Trinamool-BJP machinery is smashed. In the 2001 Assembly elections, CPI(M) candidate Nanda Rani Dal created a record by defeating Trinamool’s Rajani Dolui by 1.08 lakh votes.

During this election, Roy could not venture into Keshpur. Mohammad Rafique, who headed Trinamool in Keshpur during that time, is no longer with the party.

But Trinamool has a newcomer, Tapan Chakraborty, who joined the party switching from the Congress in 2011, to replace the authority of Roy in the region.

Under Chakraborty’s leadership, Trinamool achieved a lead of 1.34 lakh votes in the three zilla parishad seats that form the Keshpur Assembly constituency.

Now Keshpur’s undisputed leader, Chakraborty is relieved and smiling. There is no trace of the Left in Keshpur.

Majid Ali alias Majid Master, CPI(M)’s North 24-Parganas district secretariat member who ruled Shashan gram panchayat area as well as Barasat II block in the district with equal command as of Ghosh and Roy in their respective areas, shares a similar fate.

He lives about 20 km away from his native village, Sashan and could not venture into the area during the panchayat elections.

“It’s true that our men indulged in some excesses on the opposition supporters but what Trinamool is doing is unthinkable!” he told HT sitting in the Deganga zonal committee office of CPI(M) - about 20 km away from Shashan - while Trinamool leader Safikul Sarkar’s team conducted the polls in its own way at the areas of Ali’s stronghold.

In Arambag, no Trinamool leader has so far been able to match the command and charisma of seven-time CPI(M) MP Anil Bose, who ruled the entire sub-division with an iron hand for the past two decades.

Bose was expelled within a year of the change in Writers’ Buildings on charges of violating party discipline but he had lost ground to local Trinamool leaders before that.

If Parvej Rahman is now the new boss of Pursurah, replacing CPI(M) zonal secretary Sukhendu Adhikary, Trinamool veteran Sailen Sinha, who became the sabhapati of Khanakul panchayat samiti in 1998 and led Trinamool’s battle against the CPI(M) that Mamata Banerjee’s party miserably lost by 2001, has now become the boss of Khanakul, replacing key zonal committee member Bhajahari Bhuniya.

“Sabar oporey manus sotyo/ tahar porei Binoy Dutta (Humans are the biggest truth/Binoy Dutta is next)” was a common slogan of the CPI(M) in Arambag ahead of the 2001 Assembly polls. Dutta, the local MLA, had successfully led CPI(M)’s ‘struggle against Trinamool’s terror’.

Now, he is languishing in jail for close to three months. Swapan Nandi, Trinamool veteran of Arambag, reigns in the erstwhile bastion now and ensured his party enjoys an uncontested victory, just like the CPI(M) used to do under the leadership of Dutta.

If Trinamool district president Anubrata Mandal has replaced the might of CPI(M) district committee secretary Dilip Ganguly in Birbhum, Bhatpara’s Trinamool MLA Arjun Singh has replaced the mighty Tarit Topdar in controlling the Barrackpore area in North 24-Parganas district.

In South 24-Parganas, Canning boss and eight times CPI(M) MLA Abdur Rezzak Mollah appeared faded in his own areas on the day of polling. While Saokat Mollah, his right hand man in Canning, has now joined the Trinamool and has retained power that he enjoyed, Rezzak’s right hand man in Bhangar area, Sattar Mollah, landed up in jail just ahead of the elections.

Sattar Mollah, however, had lost command over this area to Trinamool’s Arabul Islam much before that.

CPI(M) strongman Laxman Seth, former boss of East Midnapore district who lost his territory to Trinamool Youth Congress president Subhendu Adhikary, now lives in Bhawanipur in Kolkata. He refused to comment on this trend of new lords replacing the old kings.

But Udayan Guha, Forward Block’s Cooch Behar district secretary, aired his views.

“Most of the men who used to control areas on behalf of those leaders have now switched to Trinamool Congress and it is based on them that the Trinamool leaders have taken equal command over those territories,” Guha, who has been leading his party since the death of his father, Kamal Guha, said.

“CPI(M), too, had used musclemen to keep hold of its areas. But Trinamool is doing it with three times more intensity,” Guha, whose party has been fighting the CPI(M) in Cooch Behar district in all the panchayat elections since 1978, said.

District Trinamool president and Natabari MLA Rabindranath Ghosh commands over the district now, where Kamal Guha had the last word for several years.