Opinion | Highly ‘Sensitive’ Barrackpore Belt Tense As Polling Day Approaches

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Voting (Rep Img)

In the sixth phase, on 22nd April, polls will be held in 43 constituencies, including 6 in the most sensitive and politically violent region of Bengal. This region is known as Barrackpore industrial belt, and the population is a motley combination of different linguistic (including a sizable population of Telugus) and religious communities. Since Arjun Singh, a former TMC leader and MLA, wrested the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat after joining the BJP, this place has become a hotbed of violence. Several people have been killed in the last two years.

Now, Dinesh Trivedi, the TMC candidate whom Arjun Singh had defeated in 2019, has crossed over to the BJP. But Subodh Adhikay, a former BJP leader of the locality, has joined the TMC as he was not ready to work with Arjun Singh. He is known in the area as a ‘recovery agent’. He has wrested from Arjun Singh four municipalities of the area. But how far he will be able to recover votes from the BJP is to be seen this time. For the records, in 2019, TMC was leading in Noapara assembly segment, and the BJP in the other 5 of the assembly seats (Barrackpore, Bijpur, Noihati, Jagatdal and Bhatpara).

According to the local residents, not a single week had passed since 2019 when this region has not seen bombing or firing. The local police, they allege, sided with the TMC and that helped the party to survive in the area. However, they claim the clashes are going on for ‘assets’ that have nothing to do with politics. Now, that the police are under the control of the Election Commission and are playing a somewhat neutral role, the tension is building up.

Meanwhile, in the adjacent areas where polling was over last Saturday, mainly Panihati, and where polling will be held the day after tomorrow, like Khardaha, clashes have erupted and at least two people have been hospitalised with serious injuries. Both the sides, BJP and TMC, are accusing the other of aggression.

It shows what can happen in Barrackpore industrial belt for the next four-five days. The commission sources say they too are prepared for any type of situation that may arise on the polling day. The locals are however worried about the days after the polls. Some of them apprehend some major violence in the post-poll days when paramilitary forces will leave the area. Whoever wins the assembly polls in Bengal, they say, will try to finish the opponents in this region.

Meanwhile, the Muslim-dominated Murshidabad district has also emerged as another area of tension. A few clashes have been reported from the area, and these are between the TMC and Congress. One person, a TMC supporter, died of bomb injury, and the police suspect the bomb had burst when the man was carrying it. Polling will be held here in the seventh phase.

(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books) 

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