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Mainstream, VOL LII No 19; May 3, 2014

Civil Society

Monday 5 May 2014, by Sunanda Sanyal

I have lately realised that we should be no political party’s vote-bank. This is as bad as ballot-rigging. In order to come to power all

existing parties take recourse to ballot-rigging. Ballot-rigging assumes different forms. To begin with, hordes of goondas, astride motorbikes, frighten genuine voters. Goondas jam up booths so that the queues of men and women can’t move. They spend millions of rupees to bribe voters.

The CPI-M, for example, had tried out bribes, in the last parliamentary elections, but it came to naught because the voters’ refused to take dictates from the CPI-M. The bribed voters stamped the Trinamul Congresss symbol. That is how Mamata Banerjee came to power. Naturally, expectations about her had been very high. She hasn’t met any of them. Before

that, Mamata Banerjee, as an Opposition leader, raised the slogan that she would restore democracy in West Bengal if she could come to power. She said, dolotontro noy, gonotontro chai (We don’t want partycracy, we are for democracy). In the books she wrote, she repeated that slogan. Before former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s remark that “I’ll break the heads of opponents”, this sounded as if it was the panacea. Mamata could have restored democracy if she had wanted to. She had the support of millions of people. In Kolkata, the Left lost all seats to the Trinamul Congress. This included Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s seat also.

The CPI-M tried to rig the polls never-theless. The Central Election Commissioner struck off lakhs of bogus voters from the electoral rolls. In the last (15th) general elections the Central Election Commissioner put his foot down and held the elections in six phases. The CPI-M was dislodged from power after 34 years of insufferable misrule. As far as electoral possibilities are concerned, the CPI-M has lost miserably. It followed Siddhartha Sankar Ray’s misrule, and ended up with rigging the ballot. This is how the misrule continued.

Just as Mamata Banerjee began calling the opponents ‘Maoists’, and taking them to task, the CPI-M in particular started with the declaration that it would use the political instrument of defence in containing all opposition. So the grocers stopped selling them their products. So did the greengrocers, the barbers and the milkmen. The court’s order under Section 144 of the IPC was practically void because the Left Front Government, led by the CPI-M, would send no policeman to places of disturbance.

Afzal Amanullah, an IAS officer who happened to be the Election Commission’s Chief Observer for West Bengal, submitted a report to the Central Election Commissioner. It’s a tell-tale proof of vote rigging by the CPI-M. Manash Ghosh, now the Editor of Dainik Statesman, originally a journalist working for The Statesman, procured a copy of the Observer’s report that said: “90 per cent polling in a particular booth and in case only one candidate gets more than 90 per cent of the votes polled then the counting in that booth should be kept aside and its result should not be counted in the final result-sheet.” But that was not done.

Politicians have not realised the importance of democracy for this nation. This nation, with so many differences, can work only with a democratic form of government. No other system of government, with its differences in religion, language and culture, can work. And what do the existing parties do? Politicians love themselves, their progeny and their parties, whose popular support they cash in on. They do not love the voters on whom they depend to achieve power.

At least in West Bengal, where there’s a long tradition of ballot-rigging. I will mention even highly talented people, considered to be sages, who resorted to ballot-rigging to come to power. Perhaps the rest of India will come up with proofs of rigging in their respective parts. They use money to buy votes. For they know that in course of time, opportunity will present itself to mint millions.

Being a ballot-rigger, the CPI-M is no supporter of civil society. It brought out a booklet practically against the civil society, even if the writer mentions Gramsci as one of the firsts who championed civil action. A Criminal Party of India (Murder)—that is, the CPI-M— was said to have raised raping squads The party’s men repeatedly raped Radharani Ari of Nandigram. The CPI-M mouthpiece Ganashakti even said, “Her Father asks, ‘When did the rape happen?’” Radharani herself called her father’s negation “a cruel joke”. The same Radharani sought Mamata’s audience, but she was refused. Narmada Shit, who had suffered a lot on her account, and wanted peace during the CPI-M regime, was another victim.

All existing parties, without exception, shelter criminals. The CPI-M sheltered drea-ded criminals like Tapan and Sukur. Biman Bose called them the CPI-M’s “assets”. Another is Majid Master of Barasat. Biman Bose naturally wouldn’t like to penalise them according to the law of the land. And the CPI-M Government didn’t. It in parti-cular chopped off at Nanoor the wrists of three young men who sat together in the front row of the meeting that Debabrata Banerjee, formerly IAS officer, who is a Trinamul Congress member of the Rajya Sabha, addressed.

All parties, particularly the ruling ones, turn our students into goondas. This includes girl students as well. The girl gang-raped at Rupnarayanpur Nazrul Centenary Poly-technic College compound, said in my presence on TV that in her case she was raped in presence of a girl. Would you not describe that girl as a goonda?

What happens when an election is held in a students’ union? I know hundreds of teachers who are scared of student union elections. They know this is the time for suffering abuse from their own students. I know what classmates do to classmates. Where there should be an ideal relationship between them, the Trinamul Congress affiliates among students, in fighting an electoral battle of the students’ union, perform all the tricks used by the CPI-M while in power. Hence, there is no change either in politics or in society; thanks to the Trinamul Congress nothing has changed.

The Trinamul Chhatra Parishad begins at the very outset. They start off with the filing of the nomination papers by students belonging to their organisation. The ruling party doesn’t let students affiliated to Opposition parties file nomination papers, thanks to the police help that they invariably get. This was true in Harimohan Ghosh College at Garden Reach in

Kolkata where a police constable was killed.

With the ruling parties replacing dialo-gues with muscle-flexing, Parliament will soon be filled with criminals. So there will be many repetitions of the shameful day on which knives were bran-dished and black pepper was sprayed by one group of students against another. Altogether 18 members were suspended.

Sunanda Sanyal is a leading intellectual figure in present-day West Bengal. He is reputed for his fiercely independent views which he articulates without fear or favour.