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No CPI-M, CPMF is town's new toast

Forget CPI-M for a while. It's the boys in olive that's keeping Bengal's rice bowl on the boil, writes Indrajit Hazra.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 12:20 IST

So, what's keeping Bengal's rice bowl on the boil? The boys in olive.

Forget the CPI-M for a while. It's the CPMF that's the toast of this town.

In a round of assembly elections that has been unnaturally low-key because of Election Commission restrictions, the only thing that reminds anyone that Bardhaman district is going to the polls on Wednesday is the presence of Central Paramilitary Force personnel.

In their fatigues, they seem to be everywhere — outside polling booths, inside eateries, under trees and on the streets. The joke is that if it wasn't for the muggy heat, one could have well been in Kashmir.

But peace is the prize. "There's been very little pre-poll problems this time," says Asit Ray, who is on election duty at the Bardhaman Town School, one of the 4,805 polling booths scattered across the district.

In between reading out an announcements inviting voters to get the hang of electronic voting machines before the big day, he explains, "Earlier there were threats, violence, killings. Lots of voters were scared into staying home. This time, it's been peaceful throughout the district."

Bardhaman, with 21 of the total 26 seats going to the Left Front (18 to the CPM) in the last 2001 Assembly polls is home to star candidate, state in dustries minister and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's right-hand man Nirupam Sen.

But that had never stopped the cadre from going on the overdrive before. Dilip Das, a driver on poll duty, welcomes the atmospheric change.

"Earlier, you would get ready and step out to vote on a polling day and be asked by a few party boys standing out side, 'Where are you off to?' And they would tell you, 'Why bother in this heat? Your vote is already done."

There have been a few complaints about paramilitary presence — overwhelmingly from the CPI-M. And there have been complaints too from the CPMF itself about the arrangements made for them. But voters and Opposition parties have been happy.

So does that mean the results could be different this time for the Left? Very doubtful. The Left looks like sweeping again and CPI-M district chief Amal Haldar seems to believe that his party can actually repeat the 1991 feat of winning all 26 seats this time.

"It will be better for the CPIM," says Das with a smile, "They won't have any reason to feel guilty about winning this time."

First Published: May 03, 2006 11:55 IST