THERE can be no doubt that the Election Commission’s decision to curtail campaign period in West Bengal by 20 hours ahead of the declared schedule has come fully out of compulsion of the situation of unprecedented violence unleashed by Trinamool Congress goons. So fierce was the attack on the rally of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Mr. Amit Shah that he could remain safe only with the intervention of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel present on the spot. It is more than obvious that shaken by grim electoral prospects, West Bengal Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee seems to have allowed anti-social elements to disturb the BJP rallies, in addition to banning the rallies of its leaders. Nowhere else in the country was such violence witnessed except in West Bengal during the current elections.
We condemn the violence in unequivocal terms. The militant stance of Ms. Banerjee was clear right from start, or even before the elections were announced. On almost every issue even of administrative nature, she has been taking an antagonistic stance just with a view to opposing the Centre on this or that pretext. It became obvious to all that for the past one year and more, Ms. Banerjee has been trying her best to block everything the Centre did or everything Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi said. She was on the forefront to question the truth in the Balakot airstrikes, or surgical strikes conducted successfully by the Indian Army three years earlier.
There need not be a problem with the political stance Ms. Banerjee might have taken, but the problem is with the violence her goons have unleashed during the current election, forcing the Election Commission to curtail the campaigning so as to keep goons at bay. In addition, West Bengal Principal Home Secretary also was relieved of his duty as evidence was available to believe that he was turning a blind eye to the violence unleashed by the goons of Trinamool Congress. Elections are taking place all over the country. The BJP has fielded its candidates everywhere.
Yet, there has been no violence anywhere and the elections went on smoothly. The trouble came up only in West Bengal where the political culture is based more on violence than on democratic discourse. In the past forty years, West Bengal’s political culture proved to be a breeding ground for violence as a tool in the hands of the parties. Everything that takes place in the State also gets a violent tinge in no time. The same is happening even now. It became obvious that the Election Commission felt helpless in the face of violence.
Though on the surface it appeared that the workers of both the parties -- the TC and the BJP -- clashed, evidence suggests strongly that the trouble was started by the TC goons, aided to some extent by West Bengal Police whose leaders assumed the role of spectators even as anti-socials attacked the BJP workers and their processions and meetings. Thanks to the timely intervention of the posse`of CRPF men, Mr. Amit Shah could be kept safe from a direct attack on him. Perhaps, that was the point when the EC decided to order curtailment of campaign period.
No matter that, the possibility of a fresh wave of violence cannot be ruled out during polling and the authorities will have to keep a strict vigil on the situation. In this endeavour, as the EC feared, it was not possible to expect a complete reliance on West Bengal Police to keep law and order in check. The decision to deploy central forces in West Bengal much ahead of the elections was made with all undesirable possibilities factoring in the EC’s thinking. Those early fears seemed to have come true, as was proved by the unprecedented violence that shocked the nation even as West Bengal got ready for the final phase.