With the Modi-led BJP getting a clear majority in the recent Gujarat Assembly election, the opposition political parties have left no-stones-unturned to call it a failure of BJP because the party fell short of its previous tally in Gujarat. Denying to acknowledge BJP’s victory even after facing anti-incumbency of 22 years, the opposition hailed Rahul Gandhi as someone would hail a Grade F student who somehow managed to score a Grade D. Mamata Banerjee was foremost among the leaders who hailed Rahul Gandhi as a champion and called Gujarat verdict a setback to BJP, even termed the result as a moral defeat of BJP.
Calling the victory a “temporary and face-saving win”, she claimed that people of Gujarat voted against the injustice caused by the BJP against the common people. She also said that Gujaratis had “belled the cat for 2019”. Congratulating Rahul, she said that the newly elected President of Congress has put BJP in back-foot.
Calling BJP’s election victory a “moral defeat” is sheer hypocrisy on Mamata Banerjee’s part. The Gujarat election was a war with both both parties playing their cards in the most tricky and strategic way. From Congress’ Manishankar Aiyyar calling Modi a “Neech Admi” to Narendra Modi pointing out Congress’s Pakistan link, both parties made it clear that they weren’t in a mood to give any quarter to the opponent. Yet, the amazing part of the election was the absolute absence of political violence.
Earlier this year on July 7th 2017, Amit Shah gave a statement while addressing the page presidents- “After Narendra Modi government came in no Aaliya Maaliya Jamaliya dared to orchestrate a communal riot in Gujarat”. During his election campaign in Bharauch, Gujarat PM Modi said that BJP govt. had ushered communal peace and safety of the state. The claims are not only true for peace, it holds true when it comes to productive politics too. The first phase of Gujarat election saw polling at 89 constituencies of regions under Saurashtra and South Gujarat, deciding the fate of 977 candidates including some high profile leaders like Vijay Rupani and Ahmad Patel. The security was beefed up in the state to ward off any untoward incidents and maintain law and order. Security personnel were deployed to maintain peaceful atmosphere for the smooth conduct of elections. The first phase of the election was peaceful. With no reports of poll-violence, The second phase of the poll that took place on December 14, was remained peaceful too. The Gujarat Police took full measures to ensure peaceful polling across the state and DGP Pramod Kumar deserves praise for his outstanding job.
We can understand that Gujarat assembly election was a highly watched election and a single poll violence incident could have drawn media’s unkind attention. This trend of fair election is not only limited to assembly elections, the state follows the same tradition in by-polls, civic-polls and Gram Panchayat elections too. The Gandhi Nagar civic poll for 32 seats took place in April 2016 and was peaceful. Last year’s Gram Panchayat election to elect members and sarpanchs of 8954 villages was held in December, which was largely peaceful.
Let’s compare the election environment of Gujarat with that of West Bengal whose CM Mamata Banerjee is talking about “moral victory”.
Recently, the Sabang assembly by-poll took place on December 20 2017, just a few days after the Gujarat election results were declared. In 2016 WB assembly election, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president Manas Bhunia won from Sabang seat. However, he joined TMC last year. The by-poll was necessary after Manas Bhunia was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Bhunia’s wife Gitarani Bhunia contested as a TMC candidate against Rita Mandal of CPM, Chiranjib Bhowmick of the Congress and Antara Bhattacharya of BJP. The by-poll ended with sporadic violence. In several booths, the TMC cadres prevented opposition parties’ polling agents from taking to their seats. Polling stations of 44, 160, 170, 291, 302 and 303 were greatly affected in the poll-violence.
1.) At the booth number 160 of Sindurda Primary School, TMC goons beat up one CPIM polling agent and three party workers. The agent and workers were hospitalized. The TMC goons had earlier threatened the agent from entering the polling station and when he defied, he was beaten black and blue.
2.) TMC goons attacked BJP workers and a BJP worker was severely injured at booth no. 44.
3.) TMC members allegedly abducted BJP leader Anada Maiti from Pingala’s Jolchowk.
4.) At Panpara Saliara School, the TMC goons stopped Congress polling agents from entering the booth.
5.) TMC goons tried to loot EVMs at booth 291 of Sabang’s Bishnupur Primary School. When the attempt was foiled, the offenders pelted stones at the Central force guarding the polling station.
The opposition parties demonstrated outside EC’s office in Dalhousie demanding actions against the poll-violence. The by-poll ended with 84.5% votes cast which subtly indicates the probable booth-capturing and poll violence.
On December 24, 2017, the Sabang by-poll result came out. Thanks to booth-capturing, TMC remained in first position with 103,810 votes. CPM was in second position with 41,570 votes. BJP made a tremendous improvement. In the last election, BJP’s total vote count was 5,600 which increased to 37,476 votes in the by poll as BJP clinched the third position. Despite poll-violence, BJP showed that its influence is on a rise in the state, could it be called “moral victory” for BJP? Congress which won the seat in 2016, is in fourth position. Is this the “moral defeat” of Congress?
Political violence is nothing new in West Bengal. Majority of the tenure of previous CPM government, which ruled for 34 excruciating years, was dotted with poll violence. The most infamous act was probably the “Kandua chop off” incident of 1991. CPM goons attacked a Congress leader Gopal Patra’s family, chopped off his hands and legs and urinated on his mouth. Then the goons ripped off the breasts of two women of the family. The CPM goons then attacked the houses of other Congress men and chopped of the hands of seven for voting for the “hand” symbol. Three of them were maimed for lifetime. During her campaign against CPM’s misrule, Mamata Banerjee’s motto was “We want change, not revenge”.
The change Mamata Banerjee assured never came. After sitting on the CM’s chair, the first thing she did was to follow the path of political violence CPM was walking previously.
1.) In May 2017, municipal civic polls took place at Darjeeling, Kalimpongin, Kurseong, Mirik, Raiganj, Pujali and Domkal. TMC won the civic polls in Raiganj, Pujali and Domkal where people witnessed poll-violence. Especially Pujali and Domkal saw severe political clashes when TMC goons attacked and vandalized the booths with hockey sticks, country-made pistols, cleavers, etc. They broke the EVMs and whoever tried to stop them, faced their wrath like a nightmare. It is safe to say that violence by the ruling party led to its victory.
2.) In August 2017, municipal elections were held at Durgapur, Dhupguri, Haldia, Cooper’s Camp, Paskura, Nalhati and Buniadpur. Political violence broke out at Paskura and Durgapur. TMC goons captured polling booths and continued rigging. Police men were severely injured during the unrest, three voters suffered bomb splinter injuries, a CPM worker, a constable and a cameraman of ABP Ananda News Channel received head injuries. The Police, instead of taking action against the goons of ruling party, took an inert stance against them.
3.) In 2014, TMC MP Tapas Paul (former Bengali film actor) threatened to kill supporters of opposition parties. He also threatened to send boys to rape their women.
4.) In August 2014, TMC goons stripped a CPM supporter’s wife, paraded her naked, gang-raped her and finally murdered her by hanging her from the ceiling of her house.
5.) In 2015, TMC goons murdered a student in Sabang, when he refused to follow their diktat to felicitate a minister.
6.) During 2016 West Bengal assembly election, TMC goons had beaten a three-year-old girl in Halisahar to pressurize a CPM supporter to vote for them. In another case, TMC goons had beaten Amulya Bor’s nine-year-old granddaughter Priti Bor because Amulya Bor did not vote for TMC.
While BJP fought the Gujarat assembly election fairly and peacefully even after facing anti-incumbency of 22 years, Mamata Banerjee’s party is resorting to all types of poll-violence just within 5 years of her rule. Her party members are carrying out poll-violence even during small elections like civic poll or panchayat election. Who faced moral defeat, BJP or her own party?