Rural polls: Bengal set for more Bhangars

Semi Column

Stray clashes between the CPM and the Trinamool Congress have been taking place since the new government took over in May 2011, but the attack on former Left Front minister Abdur Rezzaq Mollah and the violence that has followed in South 24 Parganas district is the first major political violence under the new regime.

Amid use of bombs and firearms, the Bhangar clash left 27 injured, three of them seriously, while more than a dozen vehicles were set on fire, provoking Governor M K Narayanan to criticise the "goondaism".

Experts see the Trinamool's desperate attempts to regain its hold in South 24 Parganas district ahead of the May panchayat polls as the reason for the spurt in violence here. It is in this district apart from East Midnapore that the party had first tasted power by winning the panchayat elections in 2008. However the party has been losing ground here since then due to allegations of corruption in the zilla parishads and intense intra-party feuds.

With the CPM led by Mollah asserting itself, the TMC also deliberately turned to known history-sheeter Arabul Islam. TMC Minister for Commerce and Industries Partha Chatterjee had openly commented that an Islam and not a "Yudishthir (the Mahabharata character known to never condone a wrong)" could take on Mollah.

It is feared that with panchayat polls nearing, Bhangar may have just been a taste of things to come. Union Minister of State for Railways Adhir Chaudhury talks of "bloodshed in rural Bengal in the days to come".

The one man smiling though must be Mollah. The CPM that was on the verge of expelling Mollah for his open defiance of the party is now clinging on to him to regain its lost ground among farmers. Among those who have visited him in hospital is Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the very same former CM whose policies he once consistently criticised.

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