Debating India

WEST BENGAL

Almost Red but a few worries

Friday 5 May 2006, by ROY*Bidyut

Kolkata, May 4: Overall red, with patches of grey. Or so goes the CPI(M)’s internal assessment reports, collated from 13 districts, which has reached the party headquarters in Alimuddin Street after the fourth phase of polling.

The report emphasised that the heavy turnout will benefit the Left candidates by and large, but indicated some areas of concern, too, particularly in pockets of the industrial belt in North 24 Parganas and Birbhum. According to the CPI(M)’s assessment, the opposition might wrest some seats from the ruling party in these two districts.

Though part of a routine exercise, the reports had a special relevance this time as the party’s top leadership sent SOS to almost all districts, asking for a feedback on the heavy turnout of voters.

One explanation from the districts for this unexpected numbers was that it was an outcome of the party’s mobilisation of cadres and workers in the face of a stringent Election Commission and heavy deployment of paramilitary forces. According to trends in earlier polls, 5-10 per cent of even hardened and committed voters failed to turn up at the booths on D-Day.

But this time the organisational machinery was geared to the maximum and specifically told to ensure total attendance; and thus the colossal turnout, the reports said.

Though party camps were not set up within 200 meters of the polling booths, in accordance with the EC directive, the committees reported mobilisation within the villages from where voters were sent to cast their ballots.

There were two rounds of scrutiny of the voter’s list by leaders at the grassroots level, and reports said party supporters were listed carefully among those names.

Another aspect of the high polling percentage lay in that names of those who had either shifted base or had expired were deleted from the electoral rolls. The Election Commission undertook this exercise for the first time in decades, and the result was crossing out hundreds of names from the rolls.

The CPI(M)’s internal assessment reports said the polling percentage automatically increased with the great purge. However, some reverses are not ruled out by the reports. In North 24-Parganas, for instance, party infighting may reflect in the voting trend, denting the chances of Left candidates.

This was particularly applicable in the stretch between Kamarhati and Khardah. The CPI(M) district committee has reportedly indicated that a number of seats in this belt were “unsafe”.

Similarly, CPI(M) won several marginal seats in Birbhum in 2001, which may see reversal of fortunes this time, the reports stated. In several seats, the unofficial alliance between Trinamool Congress and the Congress party was achieved at the grassroots level, and the anti-Left votes were believed to not have split - again making for grey areas in the Red fortress.

See online : The Indian Express

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