The ruling Trinamool Congress had rigged the 2018 panchayat polls, former TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari, who recently joined the Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged.
“I was then in the TMC. People of Jhargram and Purulia had voted for the lotus (symbol of BJP). But the TMC used police force that night, till around 3 am, to rig the ballots. It was the BJP who had actually won the Zilla Parishad of Jhargram and Purulia. But the public opinion was never reflected,” Adhikari, who was then the state transport minister and a trusted lieutenant of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, alleged on Wednesday.
While the panchayat election in 2003 gained infamy for the death toll, the 2018 polls set a record in the number of seats won without a contest. In 2018, the TMC won uncontested in around 34.2% seats.
“The opposition was not allowed to file their nomination. Goons armed with guns and bombs had surrounded the BDO offices, where nominations were to be filed. Opposition leaders were implicated in false cases and some were even abducted to ensure that they are not able to file nominations. They were not allowed to campaign, and violence was unleashed on the polling day,” Adhikari added. He was speaking at a public rally in Jhargram.
The TMC, however, hashit back calling it the height of hypocrisy and refuting the charges as baseless allegations.
“He is making baseless allegations of which there is no proof. If he was aware of such malpractice, why did he not raise objections at that time? Why now? He should have raised his voice then. This is height of hypocrisy,” said Saugata Roy, TMC MP.
The BJP’s influence in Jangalmahal started growing since 2014. The TMC suffered a blow in the area in the 2018 panchayat elections.
In Jhargram district, out of the 780 gram-panchayats, where elections were held, 373 and 329 seats were won by the TMC and the BJP, respectively. Similarly, in Purulia district, of the 1,921 seats, where voting was held, the TMC and the BJP won 754 and 528 gram-panchayat seats, respectively.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP gave the ruling TMC another jolt after it won all the seats that fall under ‘Jangalmahal’ (Purulia, Midnapore, Bishnupur and Jhargram).
With assembly elections round the corner, the BJP has already requested the Election Commission of India to deploy central forces at least 15 days before the polls so that free and fair elections can be held.