The political parties of West Bengal have been collectively failing people by making violence an essential part of every political activity.
Violence has become the hallmark of elections in West Bengal and the election to local self-government bodies this year does not show a break from the trend — as many as 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured with an equal number of lives lost in the run-up to the election held on Saturday. The 2018 panchayat election in which more people were killed was no different either. And the violence during and in the aftermath of the elections to legislative Assembly in 2021 was unprecedented with allegations of murder and rape filling the air. Hundreds of workers of the BJP and the CPI(M) had to flee their villages fearing for their lives, which forced the Calcutta high court to order an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
That the violence occurred despite the developments prior to polling is bizarre. Clashes began immediately after the polling date was announced and the high court had intervened and directed the state election commission to requisition adequate Central forces to ensure the election be held in a peaceful manner. The failure of the state panel to act on time later forced the court to even specify the number of Central forces.
No political party can be singled out as the perpetrators of violence in the state. It does not absolve the ruling Trinamul Congress that it lost the maximum number of workers, the head count followed by the BJP, the CPI(M) and the Congress. Every single player in the state owes an explanation to the people of the state and the nation an answer to the question as to why so many lives are lost in an election, the most important event in a democracy. The state government’s ineptitude in handling law and order has been on display on one too many occasions of late in the state. It has enough data on violence related to elections in West Bengal and could have planned well in advance. It appears that the state government and the home department did precious little and that’s what led to this mayhem. It was a redux of the police’s cluelessness ahead of impending violence during the Ram Navami celebrations in March in several parts of the state.
The political parties of West Bengal have been collectively failing the people by making violence an essential part of every political activity including elections. The Congress and the CPI(M) refused to expand the democratic space in the state when they were in power and the Trinamul Congress has faithfully followed its predecessors. It must be remembered that India has been making tremendous progress in making the exercise of franchise a free and fair affair with instances of electoral malpractices and violence coming down in each election, but West Bengal remains an exception. A people who were made to suffer both under the Raj and in democratic rule certainly deserves better.