ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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No 'Precedence' in Bengal Elections

A part of the article (“West BengalPanchayat Elections: What Does It Mean for the Left?” by Dwaipayan Bhattacharyya and Kumar Rana,, 14 September 2013) comes dangerously close to the writings on Bengal which tend to look at the anti-democratic practices of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as the continuation of past practices. While analysing the role of terror and violence in the panchayat elections of 2013, the authors admit that terrorisation and violence had been used extensively by the TMC, the ruling party, for winning the elections, but dispute the claim of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) – leaders that these were “unprecedented”.

It is necessary to draw conclusions from full facts, not from selective facts. Yes, the 2003 panchayat election was a violence-prone election and the seats won without contest constituted approximately 11% of the total seats of gram panchayats (GPs). Needless to say, most of these seats went in favour of the ruling party, the CPI(M), and its partners. But, as many as seven panchayat elections were held during the Left Front regime. How many of them were like the one in 2003? In the 1978 and 1983 elections, the seats won uncontested were less than 1%, in 1993 they constituted 2.81% and in 1998 1.36% of the total GP seats. In 1988, however, 8% of the GP seats went uncontested. In 2008, as the authors mentioned, around 5% of the GP seats were won by candidates without contest. So, if the number of seats won uncontested is taken as a measure of the ruling party’s terrorising activities for monopolising the political space, then the 2003 election (and also partly the 1988 elections) were exceptions.

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