Kolkata: Candidates backed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) Sunday swept the polls to the Mahishadal Keshabpur Jalpai Radhakrishna Cooperative Farmers Association in West Bengal’s East Midnapore district, fending off threats from an informal alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left.
As many as 76 seats in the board of the Mahishadal cooperative — which disburses loans to poor farmers — were up for grabs in the poll.
Ahead of the election, the ideologically-opposed BJP and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had forged an informal alliance titled ‘United Farmers’ Morcha’ to defeat the TMC — a tried-and-tested model two weeks ago for the Nandakumar Cooperative poll.
Cooperative elections are not fought on party symbols, but candidates are politically backed. While 62 candidates were backed by the BJP, 13 were from the CPI-M camp. One seat was already won uncontested by a candidate backed by the TMC, which contested on all 76 seats.
Villagers from Mahishadal bloc cast their votes, with the exercise taking place amid tight security and the police on guard in anticipation of violence. After the counting of votes, the TMC secured 69 seats while the BJP-CPI-M alliance managed only eight.
The results have come as a relief for the TMC because the united efforts of the BJP and CPI-M had blocked the party from winning a single seat in the Nandakumar Cooperative poll.
The Nandakumar election witnessed for the first time the BJP and the CPI-M coming together in West Bengal to take on the TMC, a development that is being closely watched ahead of the panchayat polls next year. The TMC is in power in Bengal since 2011.
“People are becoming aware of how the BJP and the Left are coming together, while on record they are politically poles apart. A small victory once (Nandakumar Cooperative election) doesn’t really mean anything. See how they’ve been wiped out in Mahishadal,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.
On the alliance with the Left, BJP vice-president and MP Dilip Ghosh said Monday that the BJP won’t ever join hands with the Left.
“The Left has no MLAs in Bengal; the BJP doesn’t need the CPI-M here. We have a formal alliance with parties of north Bengal for elections, but other than that we are strong enough to fight on our own,” he told a media conference.
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Ramkrishna Das, BJP leader and spokesperson of the ‘United Farmers’ Morcha’, alleged that candidates were intimidated and couldn’t vote out of fear.
“For the last three days, people were being threatened by the ruling party leaders to not cast their ballot. They also distributed money to alter the outcome of the polls. People were influenced,” Das told ThePrint.
TMC cooperative election committee spokesperson Tarun Kanti Mondal, on the other hand, alleged that the BJP had brought outsiders from other blocs to vote in Mahishadal.
“The people of Mahishadal have given a fitting reply to the BJP. Despite bringing in party workers from Nandakumar and Haldia, they lost the poll,” he claimed.
Congress MP and West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told ThePrint that his party — which was in a formal alliance with the CPI-M for the 2021 Bengal polls — wasn’t aware of the tie-up between the BJP and the CPI-M.
“We don’t know if Ram (BJP) and Baam (Left) are in an alliance here. They are the best ones to explain that, but the Congress will continue fight on its own,” said Chowdhury.
Earlier this month, while addressing a political rally in Nadia district, TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had warned the people of Bengal while attacking the opposition parties.
“The BJP only talks big. It has two associates — the Left and the Congress. They don’t work but during elections they get together. Ram (BJP), Baam (CPI-M) and Shyam (Congress) are united and become one party,” she had said.
Political analyst Udayan Bandyopadhyay pointed out that the CPI-M-BJP “alliance” for the miniscule poll might have been feasible, but was not possible at the state level.
“The fact that the so-called alliance couldn’t win the second time around is proof that this tie-up has little political significance. If anything, the TMC will use it to its advantage to highlight how the ideologically different BJP and CPI-M have a tacit understanding, a claim which Mamata has been making since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
Meanwhile, former Meghalaya governor and BJP leader Tathagata Roy took to Twitter Monday and expressed concern over the “politicisation” of cooperatives in East Midnapore district.
“Are the cooperative societies of East Midnapore district created for the welfare of the people of the region, or as a political barometer for party leaders in Kolkata? Over-politicisation is one of the reasons for the downfall of West Bengal. Zilla Parishads and associations below them should be kept away from party politics (sic),” he tweeted.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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