BJP emerges as force to reckon with in West Bengal's Purulia

Purulia, West Bengal, India Published: May 11, 2019, 07:09 PM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( AFP )

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With elections in the constituency scheduled for Sunday, BJP's lotus appears on the walls of many mud house, side-by-side with the Trinamool Congress' symbol, signifying the BJP's emergence as a force to be reckoned with.

In villages of Purulia that are awash with summer hues, the orange palash flowers blend with political parties' symbols, even as the BJP's 'lotus' and TMC's 'grass and two flowers' vie for attention - and political space.

With elections in the constituency scheduled for Sunday, the BJP's lotus appears on the walls of many mud house, side-by-side with the Trinamool Congress' symbol, signifying the BJP's emergence as a force to reckoned with.

In some places, the tiger symbol of the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) makes its presence felt as it roars from the red flags that can be seen from a distance.

Following its impressive show in the 2018 panchayat elections in Purulia, the BJP is upbeat about wresting the Lok Sabha seat from the TMC. Left Front constituent AIFB, which held the seat from 1977 to 2011, before losing it to the TMC, is also positive about regaining its lost glory.

But TMC candidate Mriganka Mahato is sure he will win from Purulia for the second consecutive term. He is up against BJP's Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato, AIFB's four-time MP Bir Singh Mahato and Congress' Nepal Mahato.

"The huge amount of development work done under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, including roads, electricity connections and many welfare schemes, is there for everybody to see," Mriganka Mahato told PTI.

He is a doctor who was brought to electoral politics by the TMC chief in 2014.

Large parts of Purulia became Maoist strongholds for a few years towards the latter part of 34-year Left Front rule in the state. Subsequently, the Jangalmahal area, which comprises forested areas spread over the districts of Bankura, Purulia, West Midnapore and Jhargram, was freed from red terror by joint forces.

With the TMC government ushering in 'parivartan' (change) in 2011, smooth metalled roads have replaced the red soil-topped roads that used to turn into slush and pond-sized craters during the monsoons.

There have been several developments and welfare schemes and electricity has reached small villages in the area.

Life in the once-neglected district in the western part of West Bengal, bordering Jharkhand, is generally better than it was 10 years ago, said villagers.

But with change and development has come corruption and the wealth of a section of local Trinamool Congress leadership has risen manifold in just a few years, they alleged.

Amal Mahato, the owner of a small tea stall on the outskirts of Purulia town, said the arrogance of the leaders is alienating people.

Admitting that a small percentage of local party leaders and workers have become greedy in Jangalmahal, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee had said that action was taken against them and urged people not to turn towards an opposition party out of anger. 

In a state with a volatile political history, Purulia has been largely free of poll-related violence. But the 2018 panchayat elections, in which the BJP emerged as the new opposition to the TMC, changed the scenario. At least 12 people were killed in the violence.

While the TMC won 234 seats in panchayat samitis in Purulia, the BJP bagged 142 seats, leaving the Congress with 33 and the Left with 25 seats as distant third and fourth place holders. 

In the gram panchayats in the three-tier election, the TMC won 838 seats, the BJP 644, the Left 178 and the Congress 150.

The BJP, with its RSS and Bajrang Dal wings, appears to have made inroads among the indigenous people. The TMC leadership also seems worried as a section of the influential Mahato community is inclining towards the BJP, party workers said.

The BJP, which came fourth in the 2014 general elections, is the biggest challenger to the TMC in Purulia.

The seat was with the Forward Bloc since 1977 till 2014 when TMC's Mriganka Mahato defeated the Left party in a wave for the Mamata Banerjee-led party. 

The TMC won 34 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal in the last general elections.

With Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressing a rally in Purulia, the party's candidate Nepal Mahato did get a boost but the party doesn't stand much a chance of now, political observers and villagers said.

According to BJP candidate Jyotirmoy Mahato, "People are not with the TMC. They only have goons in their fold. The general public will resist if they try to loot votes."
He claimed the Left has been wiped out from Purulia and most of their supporters have joined the BJP.

AIFB contestant Bir Singh Mahato, who has been a four-time MP from the seat, said the so-called BJP wave has been artificially created.

"It has no proper leader in the constituency and its supporters have been left directionless, though the party had won quite a good number of seats in the panchayat elections," he said.

TMC candidate Mriganka Mahato said he expects a better fight from the Left which has a support base all over the constituency. The BJP and the Congress, he claimed, have only some pockets of influence.

"The BJP is using religion to divert the attention of people from the basic requirements of job, food and development, which it could not provide in the last five years," he said. 

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