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Bengal Verdict: Will history repeat itself or write a fresh new chapter?

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Ayona Mitra
Ayona Mitra
A completely new space for me but as life goes, there's no harm in trying something different and fresh! Here to write, connect and impress!

Battleground West Bengal witnessed its last phase of the state legislative assembly elections 2021 on Thursday, 29th April after a long, eventful and highly competitive polling season that ran through 8 phases. As the state gears up for reality to hit on D-Day, May 2nd, here’s the million dollar question: who will the voter, the pulse of every election for the ‘defeater’ and ‘defeated’ choose this time? Will history repeat itself and mark the return of the All India Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee or will this day see the birth of an entirely new disposition in the state with Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party taking over? In case you’re wondering why I failed to mention the Congress-Left alliance here, its to firmly address what India is really thinking but might let it silently pass. The fight was ALWAYS between Modi and Mamata.

So wait, as the countdown commences. Also, read and reminiscent the highlights of this election that is all set to change Bengal’s future.

Phase-I – 30 seats (27.03.2021): The polling kick started with the highly controversial Mamata Banerjee-Praloy Paul audio tape ‘leak’ where the former is seen requesting the latter, also the VP of the BJP in Nandigram for help as Paul bravely continued to show his solidarity for Didi’s former loyalist and much loved Suvendu Adhikari. No sooner did the BJP release this tape that raised multiple questions about the TMC supremo, a delegation headed by prominent TMC leaders marched to the EC quarters in Bengal and raised issues over the authenticity of the recording and the go-to cry of any party feeling threat in elections i.e., “alleged EVM rigging” in places poll-bound that day. Interesting though, neither did Didi deny the tape straight up nor accept it. Well, amidst stories of violence and clashes between party workers here and there, the mass electorate voted fearlessly and contributed to a 79.79% turnout.  

Phase-II – 30 seats (01.04.2021): Perhaps the only phase that was talked about the most. Why? Because it wasn’t about a clash of the titans, it was to see who was the bigger titan. The place-Nandigram, the titans-Didi herself vs her once upon a time confidante, Suvendu Adhikari. More than the significance of the day itself, what citizens took away from it was the extreme show of brutality. From CPIM workers blocking roads to TMC workers beating up polling agents in Keshpur to scathing attacks on the CRPF throwing allegations that they’re working on the behest of the Centre, phase 2 was an exhausting one. Even as voters continued to show up, Mamata was seen at her constituency to take stock of the unrest situation and claimed that ‘outsiders’ were seen near a booth blocking the voters from casting their vote. A wheelchair-bound CM dialed Guv Jagdeep Dhankar to complain of the same. In another place, PM Modi paid his tributes to the late Shova Majumdar, fondly known as ‘Nimtaa Maa’ as she breathed her last following a month long struggle in the aftermath of her failed attempts to save her son from TMC goons as she had claimed. So what does one remember from a day so eventful but mostly unfortunate? The fact that enthusiastic voters came about in large numbers (80.43%), ITBP jawaans helped the elderly to exercise their voting rights and above all, impressive Covid protocol followed by the officials and citizens. Small things matter big! 

Phase-III – 31 seats (06.04.2021): PM Modi sweeped this one away. Addressing massive rallies in Howrah and Cooch Behar, he didn’t stop at just his infamous, “Didi, O Didi”. Calling out the ‘TMC syndicate’ he raised questions over the coal scam, the mysterious killings of 150+ BJP workers in Bengal, unemployment in the state, lack of governance, vote-bank appeasement politics and ‘false promises’ made to the common man in the name of development and growth in the last decade. While the PM was firmly trying to assert his win this time, near the Arambagh area, a TMC candidate was allegedly harassed by the opposition leading to multiple clashes and 5 arrests on the same. As the war of words continued regarding who started the violence against whom, the EC heard pleas by the TMC that claimed that their woman candidate, Sujata Mondol was chased in Arambagh and attacked while she took note of the situation near her booth. All this while the CRPF employed there turned ‘mute spectators’. The final turnout for phase-III was 77.68%. 

Phase-IV – 44 seats (10.04.2021): Following the unfortunate demise of 4 people in Sitalkuchi, Coochbehar, the ECI ordered for the adjournment of polling in the area while phase 4 was underway. Taking a dig at the CRPF jawaans deployed and alleging that the attack was ‘pre-meditated’, CM Mamata Banerjee ordered an enquiry into the circumstances leading up to the violence and said that the central forces were doing “tandav” in the state. Condemning the killings in the district, Congress leader P. Chidambaram and CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury fired accusations at the ECI as well for conducting elections in a manner that was costing lives. The CRPF however, issued clarifications stating that their components were neither deployed at the aforementioned booth nor had anything to do with it. Despite the disturbance, the day saw a voter turnout of 76.16% as the PM also addressed crowds in Krishnanagar. 

Phase-V – 45 seats (17.04.2021): Another day, another controversial tape. In the aftermath of the Coochbehar killings, BJP IT chief Amit Malviya released an audio tape conversation between Mamata and TMC’s Sitalkuchi candidate Partha Pratim Ray. The former is heard instructing the candidate to ‘preserve the bodies’ of the 4 victims for her to stage a protest parade over the same the following day. In a rather stern demanding tone, Didi was allegedly also heard saying that she will make sure that the assigned commission officer of the area and SP of Sitalkuchi would be arrested for ‘playing part’ in the firing. Following the release of this tape, the two parties started throwing muck at each other over the contents of this tape. TMC leader Derek O’Brien expressed strong dismay over phone-tapping and questioned the need for the central forces to fire bullets leading to the killing. The BJP delegation that took the tape to the state EC headquarters expressed disappointment and addressing the press later said that, as if threatening voters at polling booths everyday wasn’t enough to disrupt the atmosphere of elections, the TMC is now playing politics over the death of common people. They also said, “the only goal of the tape was to create further polarization.” However, this didn’t stop voters as they continued to show up throughout the day in good numbers, final turnout being 78.36%. Also, PM Modi in Gangarampur addressed another rally and urged people to vote without fear for ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas.’

Phase-VI – 43 seats (22.04.2021): On what grounds does an election stand? When voters cast their choice. Who is the voter? The people, the common man. As India witnessed a sudden surge in Coronavirus cases, the concern wasn’t only the exponential spike in active numbers but also other core issues at hand i.e, adequate oxygen supply, availability of beds and medical equipment and the need of the hour, opening vaccinations for ALL. In a welcome decision, PM Modi canceled all his remaining rallies in Bengal owing to his presence in high-level Covid related meetings. He did however take the decision of addressing the crowds of the state particularly in Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum and Kolkata through a virtual medium on April 23rd. After multiple allegations and concerns that roadshows/rallies of any and all parties could turn out to be a major contributor to the alarming Covid situation in the country and state, the ECI banned all of the above and issued appropriate guidelines for maintaining Covid appropriate behavior at polling stations. Without much hassle, it was refreshing to see people queue up adhering to the guidelines of masking up, social distancing and frequent sanitising of hands. The relatively calmer phase 6 saw a voter turnout of approximately 79.11%. 

Phase-VII – 36 seats (26.04.2021): The penultimate phase of the election saw a relatively lower turnout of 75.06%. As the nation continued to grapple with the worsening situation on Covid, the ECI was still bearing the brunt of conducting the state legislative assembly elections in 8 phases. Alleging that the ECI listens to the PM and Home Minister only and was working on their behest, TMC leader Nusrat Jahan blamed the rise in Bengal numbers on the BJP’s rallies only. Along with her, phase 7 saw other prominent leaders cast their vote, like, Agnimitra Paul(BJP), Abhishek Banerjee(TMC) and Sobhandeb Chatterjee(TMC). Also, concluding their overall campaigning for West Bengal elections, BJP chief JP Nadda said in a press conference that, “this was an unprecedented and unique election. Our campaign was for positivity and how we can deliver the promises we made to the people of Bangla.” 

Phase-VIII – 35 seats (29.04.2021): With the last 35 seats up for grabs, the most-anticipated and talked-about elections in the history of India was nearing its end. As this day was about to seal in what could possibly change the course of Bengal’s way henceforth, National leaders came forward and tweeted and urged the people to vote in large numbers to ‘sustain democracy.’ However, violence didn’t take rest even as the tiring 8 phases was about to end. Areas like North Kolkata and Murshidabad saw incidents of bomb hurling and brutal clashes between party workers as 1 person was killed and 2 others injured hours before polling began. Like always, the ECI sought a detailed report of the case and assured leaders of all parties that there would be no inefficiency or flouting of Covid norms on counting day after the TMC submitted a report to them over the same. The West Bengal elections 2021 ended with a 76.07% voter turnout. 

1 election, 8 phases and the ONE winner. The clock ticks.

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Ayona Mitra
Ayona Mitra
A completely new space for me but as life goes, there's no harm in trying something different and fresh! Here to write, connect and impress!
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