Small phase, big challenge
Only 14 seats are going to polls, yet it’s the most crucial phase as it covers the Maoist heartland of Bengal. Surbek Biswas reports.Updated: May 10, 2011 01:28 IST
The curtains will come down on the six-phase polls in West Bengal, where voting will take place on Tuesday in 14 constituencies in an area that has seen about 700 lives lost in violence over the past two years.
This is a factor behind this last and smallest phase posing the biggest challenge to the administration and security forces because these 14 assembly segments, spread over the districts of West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura, cover the Maoist heartland.
“The number may create terror among the electorate. We have been told to keep mum in this matter,” said Zulfikar Hassan, inspector general (western range).The most prominent face during this phase is jailed Maoist sympathiser Chhatradhar Mahato, who is contesting from Jhargram under the banner of the Santras-Durniti Samrajyabadi Aagrasan Birodhi Ganatantrik Mancha (democratic platform against terror, corruption and imperialist aggression). He has the support of prominent writer Mahesweta Devi.
“Chhatradhar’s demands are justified. Though I cannot go to campaign as I am not keeping good health, I do endorse his demands and urge the voters there to vote for him,” she told HT.
Though the Maoists have considerable support in several areas, they have not so far given a call for vote boycott this time, unlike what they did during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.Just two of the 14 seats are held by non-Left parties. Trinamool is contesting nine out of the 14 seats. The challenge of the Left Front is to retain its dominance. Three of its minister — Sushanto Ghosh, Rabilal Moitra and Debalina Hembram — were elected in this region in 2006.
This region has also witnessed fierce campaigning. While CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has repeated his party’s long-standing allegation of the Trinamool Congress leaders being in collusion with the red brigade, Mamata Banerjee has accused the CPM of turning into Maoists at opportune moments.