LALGARH (WEST MIDNAPORE): The Maoist-dominated Lalgarh area in Binpur's Block I is posing a serious challenge to the CPM in the panchayat election. Its candidates are locked in straight contests with the Opposition in a number of seats.
In contrast, the Opposition in adjoining Binpur II Block — a hotbed of Maoist activities — is split like in most of West Midnapore district.
“In Lalgarh, Sejua and Ramgarh gram panchayats, we have reached an understanding with Trinamool Congress and are offering a straight fight to CPM, barring a few seats where Congress have put up candidates,” said Makhanlal Baske, JKP (Aditya) block president.
JKP (Aditya) had won the Sejua and Ramgarh gram panchayats in 2003, too. CPM's Lalgarh local committee secretary Tapan De, too, admitted that the Opposition is united in these areas.
According to Trinamool block president Banabehari Roy, all hopes of Opposition unity were dashed in Baita and Dharampur panchayats, where CPM cadres have forced Trinamool candidates to withdraw from the contest.
Whether unity will ensure victory for the Opposition is still an open question because of the presence of a large number of “toughs” that CPM has allegedly brought from places like Keshpur and Garbeta. “CPM has sheltered these toughs in places like Dharampur,” said Roy.
Outsiders or not, the election scene in Lalgarh is still overshadowed by the Maoist threat. “In the morning, they are Trinamool or Jharkhandis. At night, they are Maoists, wearing olive green uniform and threatening people,” said De. “They are out to instil fear in CPM supporters,” added a CPM party worker at Lalgarh. According to him, the worst-affected villages are Purnapani, Amdanga and Jhikta, where armed Maoists go around at night, telling people not to vote for CPM.
An Opposition combine, running Binpur I panchayat samiti for two consecutive terms, has amassed considerable wealth, said De. “They are using this to buy arms and turn into Maoists at night.” Incidentally, CPM supporters have not been able to enter a gram panchayat in Kantapahari, a Jharkhandi stronghold, since 1983.
Though Trinamool leaders deny links with the Maoists who stay in the jungles of Lalgarh, Kantapahari and Jhitka, they admit that the latter's presence has been a boon in disguise for the Opposition. “It is true that we are surviving because of their presence. The Maoists have kept CPM's threat in check,” said Roy.