Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CPM routed in Nandigram, Singur panchayat polls

Slap for CPM in Singur and Nandigram

Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata

Trinamool wrests Red bastions

The CPI(M) suffered its biggest electoral defeat in panchayat polls ever since it came to power 30 years ago. The party conceded four district boards to an Opposition that was still divided. Trinamool Congress and the Congress shared the win clinching two boards each. That the Marxists picked up 13 was no solace as they had lost two of their strongest citadels.

Counting for the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti seats had started when the reports last came in. While East Midnapore farmers avenged the police firing in Nandigram by banishing the Marxists from the board, Nandigram proper saw three out of four seats going to the Trinamool Congress. Left Front got 17 to Trinamool's 36 seats in East Midnapore. The Left Front had won all but one seat from the district in 2003.

It would be difficult to gauge the anti-CPI(M) wave from the mere number of boards the Opposition wrested from the ruling party. This because even the Opposition polled whopping 32 per cent votes, seven per cent higher than what it got after the death of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Interestingly, the CPI(M) lost all the three seats from Haldia -- bastion of MP and party strongman Lakshman Seth, leading Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee to assert: "It is a farmers' mandate and it is not the Trinamool Congress but Bengal's farmers who have won." She added the result would have been better had there been no rigging in the areas.

Similarly, Singur in Hooghly district where the anti-land acquisition movement started shoved the Marxists out with all four seats going to the Trinamool Congress. The district board, however, went to the Marxists who won it 31:10.

But more than Nandigram, East Midnapore and Singur, the thumping victory of the Trinamool Congress in South 24 Parganas seemed to take the observers by surprise. Here the Trinamool and its allies picked up 39 seats to Left Front's 31. The Congress won four.

The factor that the district has four Ministers, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, seemed to make the contest more interesting. "It is a victory of Mamata Banerjee over the Chief Minister," party MLA Sobhandeb Chattopdhayay said. Parts of the Trinamool chief's constituency fall in South 24 Parganas that had seen a bloody war between the Marxists and allies RSP leading to five deaths.

In North 24 Parganas, the Left Front won 26 seats while the Trinamool had bagged 17 and the Congress eight.

In North Bengal, Union Minister PR Dasmunsi did a face-saver for the Congress by snatching back North Dinajpur from the Left Front that was a divided house here. The tally was 14:8 in favour of the Congress. The party managed to retain Malda by winning 18 seats to LF's 15.

However, the Congress lost its prestige battle at Murshidabad that sent three of its MPs, including Pranab Mukherjee. The Left Front that fought unitedly against a divided Congress here wrested the district board winning 25 seats to Congress' 27.

Results coming in till late in the evening showed the LF winning 479 seats to Trinamool Congress' 110, Congress 99 and the rests 10. The total number of district board seats is 748.

The Marxists managed to keep other Left bastions winning Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar, Purulia, West Midnapore, Nadia, Coochbehar, Bankura, Birbhum, Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan and South Dinajpur.

Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had gone about acquiring land from the farmers. Ironically however, Wednesday saw the very ground beneath the ruling CPI(M)'s feet slipping out fast.

The rural elections that took place in the backdrop of Singur-Nandigram face off literally found Marxists electorally stripped in their own backyard: rural Bengal.

Unfazed CPM guns for CRPF DIG

Kolkata: A couple of days after the Bengal IGP gave a clean chit to CRPF DIG Alok Raj in a molestation case filed against him by a woman at Nandigram in East Midnapore district, the Bengal police said there was no plan to drop charges against the "accused officer" as a police investigation was still in progress.

The CRPF officer was on peace-keeping duty in Nandigram, where the ruling CPI(M) and its police had been involved in a bloody fight against the opposition Trinamool Congress following a mass resistance against forced acquisition of agricultural lands by the Government for industrial purposes, when he was reportedly implicated in a molestation case by an alleged CPI(M) supporter.

The charges notwithstanding, Raj was found to be present at Nandigram police station during the time when the alleged crime took place. An IGP-level inquiry found Raj innocent and State Home Secretary Ashokmohan Chakrabarty even went on record conveying the IG's report. He, however, later claimed the media misinterpreted his statement.

SS Panda, SP (East Midnapore) however claimed the charges would not be dropped against Raj till the police probe was on. The CRPF officer's force is being probed in an assault case as well. Panda has been named by the opposition as a CPI(M) man of Keshpur-Garbeta fame.

"The matter will go to the court and a trial will take place," Panda said. Apparently his statement comes on the same day when the CPI(M) got a sound electoral drubbing at the hands of the Trinamool Congress.

Meanwhile, Raj is weighing his legal options, sources close to him said. "Though the FIRs are still there, I have heard that the inquiry report gave me a clean chit.... I will soon ask the Bengal Government to give me a copy of the complaints and the inquiry report. My force is supposed to be on duty at Nandigram, but I am being kept out. I have received no orders to go there on May 21," he said.

According to reports from Nandigram, the local CPI(M) was not favourably disposed towards the CRPF as it had been acting tough on the armed party cadre who were raiding Nandigram from the Khejuri side. Raj had a verbal duel with Haldia MP Laxman Seth, who reportedly directed him to stay back in his camp. But the officer snubbed him, saying he was not bound to take orders from the MP.

Meanwhile, Trinamool sources said they would stand by "an honest officer like Alok Raj who came to protect our lives but is now being framed by the CPI(M)".

Indo-Asian News Service
Kolkata, May 21, 2008
First Published: 21:33 IST(21/5/2008)
Last Updated: 21:39 IST(21/5/2008)
CPI-M routed in Nandigram, Singur Panchayat polls

West Bengal's ruling Left Front on Wednesday maintained an overall lead in the elections to the local self-government bodies, but the Front's dominant partner Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) suffered defeat in several districts, including the troubled areas of Nandigram and Singur, as officials counted the votes.
The Front suffered a severe setback in East Midnapore district, besides suffering losses in North 24-Parganas and South 24-arganas districts. In Midnapore, the CPI-M lost control of the Zilla Parishad or district council, the top tier of the state's Panchayat system, for the first time after an uninterrupted reign of 30 years.
The Nandigram region, which saw violence after protests against the government's abortive bid for land acquisition for a chemical hub, comes under East Midnapore.
The main opposition Trinamool Congress, which spearheaded the agitation in Nandigram, made a clean sweep in the area, besides making impressive gains at Singur in Hooghly district, another flashpoint where the party had mobilized farmers against land acquisition for Tata Motors' small car project.
According to reports till afternoon, the communists' citadels of Burdwan, Purulia and Bankura remained intact, but the ruling coalition was engaged in a neck and neck race with the Congress for control of the Zilla Parishads (or district councils) in Murshidabad and Malda districts.
During the last elections in 2003, the Congress had won the two Zilla Parishads, and the Left Front emerged victorious in all other 15 districts.
The CPI-M suffered a further dent in its image as three of the incumbent zilla parishad chiefs, owing allegiance to the party, bit the dust in North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Nadia districts.
In Nandigram, the Trinamool Congress trounced the front in the gram Panchayat or village council and Panchayat Samiti polls, besides winning all the four Zilla Parishad seats in the area.

Nandigram, May 21 (PTI) CPI-M and Trinamool Congress activists threw bombs and exchanged fire in three areas in embattled Nandigram shortly after zila parishad election results were declared in the East Midnapore districtd today.
Though no casualty was reported, the police said bomb blasts and gunshots were heard at Sonachura, Gokulnagar and Garchakraberia in Nandigram.

Both Trinamool Congress and CPI-M workers traded bombs and gunshots.

There was no report of any victory processions here till this evening.

Strict security measures were taken 200 metres around the counting centres.

Reports from other districts, however, said the situation had remained peaceful. PTI

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