Will the Red turn green in this seat?
A known Red bastion, Garbeta has been synonymous with terror since 2001, and the scars and dark memories of the protracted spell of violence continues to remain raw among the people of the area to this day. Koushik Dutta reports.Updated: May 10, 2011 15:14 IST
A known Red bastion, Garbeta has been synonymous with terror since 2001, and the scars and dark memories of the protracted spell of violence continues to remain raw among the people of the area to this day.
The memories of January 4 that year, when 11 supporters of the Trinamool Congress were killed following an attack allegedly perpetrated by CPI(M) strongmen and party district secretariat members Tapan Ghosh and Sukur Ali and their henchmen at Choto Angaria, a remote village, continues to dominate popular discourse here.
It was alleged that Ghosh and Ali led a group of armed Left cadres in the village bordering Bankura district and raided the house of one Baktar Ali, where local Trinamool supporters had been meeting . They mounted a vicious assault thereafter, leaving 11 Trinamool supporters dead.
Top political leaders of every hue made regular visits to the village in the light of the killings, but it was of little comfort to the villagers who continued to live in the shadow of terror.
Though Ali and Ghosh, the key accused, were arrested by the CBI following a probe into the killings, they were later granted bail, as their complicity could not be established. The locals here have suffered a decade of alleged CPI(M) terror in Garbeta and Chamkaitala, and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's words Chamkaitala theke Kolkata, path dekhabe Garbeta (Garbeta would show us the way from Chamkaitala to Garbeta) have yet to turn prophetic.
At a time the state is seemingly on the cusp of a major power shift, Garbeta too appears ready to vote for change. Despite being haunted by the spectre of terror, Opposition supporters this time have come out in numbers to attend the rallies of Congress nominee Hema Choubey, who is contesting the seat against local CPI(M) satrap Sushanta Ghosh. A slew of such heavyweights as union home minister P Chidambaram, former cricketer turned Congress MP Mohammad Azharuddin and star turned politician Raj Babbar have come calling in the area, to not only throw their weight behind the Congress nominee but also exhort locals to vote without fear and for change.
The Opposition has charged Ghosh with patronising harmads (armed CPI(M) cadres) and ferrying arms into the area with a view to keeping the Left's stronghold by way of a terror campaign. However, the Left leaders have trashed the Opposition claims.
"There is no democracy in Garbeta, as the CPI(M) over time has reduced elections to a mockery here. We want to see it end. People here has long been voting against their will, and were the polls to be free and fair this time, they would vote against CPI(M)'s terror," said Swapan Dubey, district Congress president.
The seat has remained with the CPI(M) since 1962 and over time the Opposition's presence had literally been wiped off the panchayat bodies as well. In the last Panchayat polls, CPI(M) won all the seats uncontested. As per territorial remapping following delimitation, the seat now comprises the entire Garbeta 1 block, in addition to Amlashuli, Gogardanga, Piyashala and Sarboth areas of Garbeta block 2.
However, Ghosh remains optimistic of the CPI(M) continuing its victory march here. "They (opposition) know they can't win here and hence are making up stories of terror. This is a Red seat and would remain so," said Ghosh.