I still remember the election days, when we used to live in the residential flats of Hind Motors factory in West Bengal. The factory’s union leaders used to be on poll duties inside and outside the booth that used to be in our high school. People were afraid of them. To avoid any problem, people will toe their line. Later on I found, the people are going to them as they only could get something from the management that even a senior manager failed for his man.
In his last book, Arindam Chaudhry talked about the mass scale rigging in West Bengal election. I took that with a pinch of salt. I was not much convinced that something like Bihar happens in West Bengal. For West Bengal, election rigging is through the election management that makes the difference. The CPM machinery works all year only with the sole purpose of seeing the win in any election.
After many years now, I have been able to find out the arithmetic or mathematics of the record CPM election wins in this state. I read about the party’s colossus organizational might in an article in ‘Telegraph’ by one Ashis Chakrabarti. I would have loved to talk to him. But I assume his information to be correct.
CPM has 2.84 lakh full time members.
Krishak Sabha, the peasants’ wing has 1.4 crore members.
Student and youth wings together have another close to 1 crore members.
CITU, the trade union units, has about 29 lakh members.
Gantantrik Mahila Samiti, the women wings, has 36.62 lakh members.
Schoolteachers’ unions have memberships of 2.3 lakh.
All these categories of people, having direct affiliation with CPM, total to 271.12 lakh (2.71 crore).
And it is but certain that these people (271.12 lakh in number) will vote for CPM or other allied leftist party. (In 2004 election, the number of total voters was 4.74 crore, and 3.69 of them voted. Basically, 73% of those voted were CPM members directly. Only 98 lakhs were non-CPM.) Beside CPM, other leftist parties do also have similar membership and cadre, though much less in number and may be only in their respective area.
How can CPM lose an election in West Bengal with so strong an organization?
Even if we don’t consider student and youth wing, some 171 lakh of CPM members are available to convince, threaten, or force 98 lakh people to vote for CPM and allied political parties. All these years of its rule, CPM has strengthened its organization. Its members will remain with the party as they have been benefited. It is the fear and the hope of favour. Any help coming from any government or non-government agencies comes through the party machinery and the members. That has made the difference. Those were the reasons for many bloody conflicts in many areas, when Mamta was coming up.
And over and above this, the CPM members take help of fake ration cards, voter’s identity cards, get manipulated the electoral rolls that eliminate the names of those who may not vote for the party. After all, most of the persons involved in preparing the roll are CPM members. And CPM is the ruling party now for more than three decades in West Bengal. It will be clear from just one report:
“The Bengal government on Monday figured out what K.J. Rao was all about. The unassuming Rao landed in Nadia district. He met leaders of all political parties and then went on a recce trying “to identify bogus voters and the fake photo identity cards (EPICs).” At the end of the day, he lived up to his name. He got hold of a large number of voters with fake photo identity cards and bogus voters across the district. The man who ensured one of the cleanest polls in Bihar showed that Bengal was no different from Bihar when it came to bogus voting. “All these names should be off the rolls. What is happening here?” an angry Rao demanded of the district magistrate Rajesh Pandey, who accompanied him. Rao’s whiplash comes after several parts of Bengal were rocked by reports of large scale fake ID and ration cards. Over 10,000 forged ID cards were seized from various parts of the district. Rao also made sure that he moved around unescorted and made it a point to chase away a group of policemen. His unscheduled visits put the bureaucracy in a tizzy. He did not spare the BDO and the deputy magistrates: “You people are useless,” he lashed out. And at the end of the day, Rao signed off with one promise. “Elections will be different in Bengal this year. Everybody can vote. It will be free and fair.”
But perhaps that’s what Rao wishes. Even with free and fair elections, there is no opposition unlike one under the leadership of Nitish here in West Bengal that can bring the change neither West Bengal has a Rabri’s rule and Laloo’s brother-in-laws that the people want to get rid of.
Let us understand how the election is managed. The election-in-charge of the village knows the name of persons on the roll who shall not be present to vote. The members manage to get those votes in the favour of their party through fake ration cards and as we know now even by producing fake voter’s ID cards. Most of the officers on election duty in each polling booth, though government employees are the members of the party too. Teachers are the most popular choice for the election duty. But almost all teachers in West Bengal are members of the leftist parties otherwise they would not have got their appointments. I think election commission has also a plan to keep the teachers out this time from electoral duties.
I don’t think any other party or combination can win West Bengal from CPM and its allied parties, unless it comes up with equally strong parallel organization. At one time, I used to think Mamta has the capability. But with all her inconsistent political moves, she is no more the force. And I doubt she will be able to create her ‘Grand Alliance’ (Mahajot)