by Atif Moin Siddiqui and Aniketh Brian Madhok
“Paschim Bangla te vote hoye na, vote korano jaye…” (In West Bengal Vote does not take place, Vote can be made to happen here)
This phrase is from a YouTube Channel which speaks on the Political and State Affairs of Bengal and; now, the meaning of this sentence suddenly becomes clear after observing how the Kolkata Civic Polls of December 2021 was conducted.
7 months after the TMC’s Massive Victory and the BJP’s subsequent humiliating defeat in the West Bengal Assembly Elections, the City of Kolkata once again geared up in full Election Mode with Rallies, fresh Wall Paintings, Flags and Posters on every corner for the KOLKATA MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (KMC) Elections which were scheduled on the 19th of December, 2021. It was the first time that the KMC Polls were held in a Winter Season, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the Voter Turnout was slightly lower than that of previous Elections, i.e., 64%, as in comparison to the last KMC Election in 2015, which was about 68%. Yes, the factor of voting twice in a year also came into play with Kolkata always displaying a tendancy towards effecting low Voter Turnouts in comparison to the rest of the State. But, there also, was attached, the possibility of the low Voter Turnout this time around being due to the Hesitancy of the Public to go out and Vote in the face of the News of Violence and Rigging which were being reported by the Media in Live Updates from Polling Booths through out the day. Although these incidents may not have been pronounced on a large scale, they still did, unfortunately occur. Some Reports, later on, turned out to be Fake and some True.
India is the Largest Democracy in the World, where even the Civic Body is decided by an Election. But ofcourse the largest Democracy has its Flaws and Drawbacks, as was clearly seen in this latest Local Body Elections in Kolkata. Elections are the very basis of Democracy. The Base and the Heart of a Free Nation. Elections are not only the Act of Choosing your Leader (or, the one who acts as the conduit between yourself and the Local Authority; Serves Your Interest, as it should be) but it is also the act of Casting One’s Own Opinion. One thing which decides the liveliness of this pumping Heart of Democracy, that we know of as an Election, is the fairness of it. An Election without Fair Level of Rights is just a Formality.
The residents of Kolkata were eagerly looking forward to this Poll. We were fascinated with what had occured in the Assembly Polls. May 2nd 2021, was the day when the entire Country was astonished with the Results that came out of Bengal. The Party which had claimed that they would win over 200+ seats and create a Major Political Upset in Indian Politics by conquering Bengal with all their Might; got all its Bluff Vanished, DayDreams Broken and Organisation in shambles on that day.
Bengal showed that they would not bow down to Fascism and Saffronise Bengal with the Terror of Radical Hindutva.
With all that said, Kolkata was eager to see as to what would befall the Opposition who were contesting the KMC Polls, that is ofcourse until the Citizens of Kolkata switched on the News where they saw incidents of Booth Capturing, Fist Fights inside Polling Stations and Bombings by unknown miscreants in two Wards, resulting in a man losing his leg. Physical Violence started showing up everywhere. The Police and the State Election Commission almost neglected the matter and decided not to look at what was going on. Polling Agents of the Opposition Parties were not allowed to enter the Booths in many of the Wards and the Administration did, from very little to, almost nothing to stop the Unlawful Activities. Every News Update that was being broadcast was backed by Video and Photographic Evidence. Several Media Channels reported the incidents from On Site Location. There were numerous reports of Opposition Candidates and Agents getting attacked or harassed: of Rigging, Booth Capture, Vandalism, Fake Voting, CCTV Dysfunction, Stone Pelting and Bombs being hurled.
It was like: What happened to Kolkata today? Is this a Safe Atmosphere to Vote? Is there any Space for Opposition here? It did not speak highly for Democracy within the State. It was shocking and deeply sad to witness this chaotic Condition of Affairs in our city. This Level of Autocracy and Ignorance by the Administration is concerning. The Fear to Cast One’s Own Opinion amongst Voters in a Democratically Free Country, remained disconcerting. The fact that all this was unfolding in a place which has yielded several prominent Freedom Leaders; where now, Freedom itself was being crushed right in front of our eyes.
Whatever that occured on the 19th, it is a clear failure of the State Election Commission and the Kolkata Police; as this all took place under their watch. The only thing that we can now expect is to hope that they take action against these perpretators. Most of the allegations are against the ruling TMC Agents, despite warnings from the Party, their Workers have engaged in Illegal Activities, which is, in essence, a Failure of the Party to Control their own Party Men. It has been around 8 days since these Violent Incidents took place and still, to this day, no action has been taken against anyone involved in these Unlawful Activities. The role of the Police since the past 2 days on these matters has been questionable. Neither does the Administration seem to care enough about the Rights of their Citizens. This is not what the people of West Bengal voted for. We voted to retain Democracy, Peace, Harmony and Freedom of Speech in the “City of Joy”. But perhaps that Package contained several other Harmful Ingredients which are now Affecting the Content.
No matter which Political Ideology one supports, Democracy is the Basic Right of People and it is We the People of India who must make sure that these Rights are Rightfully Instilled. If We the People do not stand up now, it is going to come back to haunt us one day. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr; “INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE”. This is not what our Freedom Fighters gave their lives for. This is not the India that Mahatma Gandhi did SATYAGRAH for.
You would ask why would the TMC do this when the tides were in their favour and they were high in the Flames of Victory for a clean sweep?
They probably were eyeing 144-0 and wanted to totally decimate the Opposition in Bengal. No matter how good your Government is or how useless your Opposition is – A Democracy must have an Opposition otherwise it will be a One Party System leading to Authoritarianism; which is something that no one should allow to happen and yet, sadly, it is this very situation that every Ruling Party craves. It is We the People who have to draw the line.
NOW or NEVER.
Both Atif and Aniketh are in 12th Standard and are 18 year Bengalis from Kolkata.