Nandigram, Singur could be Left's undoing, say experts
The spillover effects from Singur and Nandigram could hit West
Bengal's ruling Left Front, which faces its toughest challenge in
the assembly elections whose outcome could have a national impact,
say political observers.
According to analyst Mahesh Rangarajan, Left parties laid a strong
Defying a Maoist boycott call, people formed long queues outside
booths amid high security as the sixth and final phase of assembly
elections in West Bengal started off peacefully in three districts
Three helicopters are doing aerial surveillance and over 100,000
security personnels, comprising central paramilitary troopers,
crack units of the state police and commandos have been deployed
in the region covering parts of West Midnapore, Bankura and
Polling is being held in 14 constituencies - seven in West
Midnapore, four in Purulia and three in Bankura, areas considered
the hotbed of Maoist activites.
"There are no reports of any untoward incident. Polling is on
peacefully and smoothly," said an officer at the state police
control room here.
Polling in the area poses the biggest challenge for the security
forces and the election authorities, with over 26 lakh voters
eligible to choose their representatives from among 97
Places like Salboni, Jhargram, Nayagram, Binpur, Joypur and
Bandwan have been the scene for shootings and carnage related to
rebel violence over the past two years.
Troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force's anti-Maoist wing
and Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) are deployed in
the jungles armed with modern gadgets, including anti-explosive
High-frequency satellite phones are being used at several polling
booths as part of the massive security arrangements.
As a precautionary measure, polling would end at 3 p.m., two hours
earlier than the earlier rounds, to enable polling officials to
leave the area before daylight fades.
The entire area resembles a battlefield with Kalashnikov wielding
security forces positioned in large number of bunkers and on the
roofs of polling booths.
Anti-landmine vehicles are also on the roads.
"We have identified 1,049 hamlets as vulnerable to threats of
which 470 are in West Midnapore, 563 in Bankura and 16 in Purulia.
Both civil officials and security personnel are keeping a close
watch on the residents of these hamlets," said state Chief
Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta.
Voting has already been conducted in 280 seats of the 294-member
The polls are seen as the stiffest challenge for the Left Front
that has been in power for 34 years - the world's longest-serving
communist-led government in a multi-party democratic system -
against a determined charge of the opposition Trinamool
Among the star candidates in the fray are Minister for Western
Region Development Sushanta Ghosh (from Garbeta in West Midnapore),
Law and Justice Minister Rabilal Moitra (Gopiballavpur, West
Midnapore) and Minister of State for Backward Class Welfare
Debolina Hembram (Ranibandh, Bankura).
Chhatradhar Mahato, jailed convener of the People's Committee
Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), a pro-Maoist tribal outfit, is
contesting from Jhargram constituency in West Midnapore district
as an independent candidate.
The Communist Party of India - Maoist - which has launched an
armed struggle to seize state power in parts of India - has,
however, given call for a vote boycott across the state.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is contesting 11
seats, the Communist Party of India (CPI) in one, the Forward Bloc
in two, the Trinamool Congress in nine, the Congress in four and
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in all the 14 constituencies.
The counting of votes will take place May 13.