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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Why violence on the political board in West Bengal, UP left Bihar behind

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Recently there were reports of violence in the panchayat elections held in West Bengal. After continuous violence in every election, West Bengal has gone ahead of states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in election violence. There was a time when electoral violence and malpractices were rampant in Bihar. Largely violent elections were held in Bihar in 1995, when Lalu Yadav was in power. 

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress won the assembly elections for the first time in 2011. Since then, she has been ruling the state continuously almost unopposed. Today his party has more than 220 MLAs in the assembly. The ruling party at the Center since the 2021 state elections  BJP’s strength has reduced to less than 70 MLAs.

Despite this, violence was witnessed in the recently held panchayat elections in the rural areas of Bengal. Allegations of electoral malpractices from the opposition camp not only took place on the day of polling, but also during the vote counting was marred by widespread violence.

The death toll nears 50

The unofficial death toll from political clashes and election violence since the day the elections were announced on 8 June is said to be close to 50. However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has given the death toll as 19. Allegations of election fraud on polling day ranged from false voting, voter intimidation, attacks on poll workers and party agents, booth jams to looting of ballots, snatching of ballot boxes and throwing them overboard. 

Rebuke of State Election Commission

The Bengal State Election Commission was reprimanded not only by the state government and opposition parties but also by the Raj Bhavan and the Calcutta High Court for failing to conduct free, fair and violence-free elections. The Election Commission had to conduct repolling in 696 polling stations and ordered repolling in 20 more polling stations in Howrah, Hooghly and North 24 Parganas districts even after the counting was completed.

There are other Indian states that regularly experienced large-scale political violence. But compared to Bengal  States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, despite having Bahubali and mafia syndicates, are facing less political violence, but political violence still dominates in many districts. 

In this article, we will know which state has maximum political violence. 

Political violence of Bengal 

Bengal has a long history of political violence dating back to before independence. After widespread violence during the partition of Bengal in 1905, there was a lot of discussion about revolutionary movements under the banner of Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar. However, the rise of electoral politics after independence brought political violence to the centre-stage. History is witness to the fact that in the early decades violence broke out between the grassroots cadres of the then ruling Congress and the emerging political force CPI(M).

Congress was accused of violent repression against the opposition in the 1972 assembly elections. Violent Naxalite movements also took place in the state on the radical groups of the left parties. The culture of political violence was continued with greater ferocity than before when the CPI(M)-led Left Front government seized power in 1977. 

The Left Front government launched land redistribution (Operation Barga) to strengthen its hold over the rural population. At the same time, it used every other means, including the police and other state institutions, to silence the voice of the opposition and maintain a tight grip on power.

Activists and supporters of opposition parties were routinely harassed, had their homes burnt down, or were allegedly murdered by ruling party workers. To maintain its complete supremacy, it did not even spare junior coalition partners like RSP.

In 2011, TMC ousted the Left parties from power. After this, the party had promised to ‘stop the politics of vendetta’. But in contrast TMC has followed the violence of Left parties with even more ferocity.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections too, violence was witnessed on a large scale in Bengal. Similar violence was also seen in the 2018 Bengal Panchayat elections. The figures of political violence in different states from 2016 to 2023 are surprising. 

From 2016 to 2023, 8,301 political violence took place in Jammu and Kashmir. After this there is West Bengal. There were 3,338 reports of political violence in West Bengal during this period. All the violence in West Bengal was mostly on a large scale. Uttar Pradesh reported 2,618 political violence. Big states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Rajasthan, Karnataka reported a total of 700 political violence from 2016 to 2023. 

There were 365 reports of political violence in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, while 44 people lost their lives in political violence in the 2018 panchayat elections. 

Political violations peaked in only one state, West Bengal, after Jammu and Kashmir around the 2019 general elections. Apart from West Bengal, the trend of large-scale political violence during elections was also observed for Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Bihar, Assam, Tripura, Chhattisgarh and Kerala. 

2019 Lok Sabha Elections  Political violence in

 State                political violence

Jammu Kashmir           250

West Bengal            200

Uttar Pradesh              100

Punjab                     100

Bihar                      80

"text-align: justify;">Assam                     100

Tripura                      80

"text-align: justify;">Chhattisgarh                 30

Kerala                     60 

Andhra Pradesh               100

Delhi                    25

Goa                       6

In politically polarized Bengal, the cadres of each party consider the leader of the rival parties against them as their enemy or ‘outsider’. Each party’s camp mentions that if the rival party comes to power, it will promote violence.  Apart from this, most of the political parties give unemployed youth their  Deployed as soldiers to attack and intimidate rival party workers. To protect themselves, rural party workers sometimes violently mutilate rival party workers. 

Finally to retaliate or ‘revenge’  The party has to adopt ‘politics of fear and anger’. Think of it as target killing of party workers after the elections.  Its purpose is to teach a lesson to the other party.

The issue of political dominance, especially in rural Bengal, is considered extremely important not only for political parties but also for common party supporters. Because of this there is lot of violence in elections. 

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