The recently concluded panchayat polls in West Bengal that saw unprecedented violence, is a result of the politics of patronage, socio-economic conditions in Bengal and is a carry forward of the Left legacy left behind by the communist rule of 34 years in Bengal, according to experts.
The panchayat polls saw immense violence and bloodshed in almost all the districts of Bengal, and left over 30 people dead and over 150 people critically injured. This was because of the socio-economic condition n rural Bengal where people mostly depend on the ruling party for their livelihood and shelter. No industrial development has taken place in the state in the last 40 years leading to this situation, according to political experts and observers.
Krishanu Mitra, a political expert from Bengal, told The Sunday Guardian: “The violence in Bengal’s panchayat polls should be looked at from the point of view of how the local masses are dependent on the ruling party for their livelihood. In Bengal, politics of patronage plays a very important role. The local masses depend on the ruling party on the ground for every little thing that is concerned with their life and most people who have developed that understanding with the Trinamool (TMC) leaders over a period of time would not let that slip away from their hands.”
“Over the years, Bengal has not seen any industrial development; it has not been able to provide a systematic structure of administration and law and order in the state. What the present government perhaps has done is carried forward the legacy of the Left, which includes such policy of helping the local masses and keeping them happy under their patronage. These were the people who were under the shelter of their local leaders from the TMC who went a bit too far to protect their seats and power, in turn unleashing violence.” Mitra added.
This time, the panchayat polls in Bengal saw violence, gunbattles, use of locally made bombs, booth capturing, burning of ballot boxes and even throwing away of ballot papers and ballot boxes used for election into water bodies.
The BJP, which was the principal Opposition has accused the ruling TMC of using terror and violence to mar the Bengal polls. BJP leaders have said that the TMC was scared that they would lose votes, which is why they used the policy of terrorising and threatening by the police and local goons.
A senior BJP leader said, “The situation in Bengal is such that one can only talk about the ruling party, the moment one associates oneself with the Opposition or especially the BJP, they become the target of the local police as well as the administration. This shows the vulnerability of the Mamata Banerjee government and the growing power of the BJP in the state. So many of our workers have been killed and injured just because they were contesting or campaigning against the TMC, this is what democracy has been reduced to in the state.”
The local body polls also saw almost 34% of the seats being uncontested where nominations from any Opposition parties were not filed. This has been the highest percentage of uncontested seats in the history of Bengal’s panchayat polls.
However, results of these uncontested seats have been stayed by the Calcutta High Court and the Supreme Court and a verdict on this would be given soon.