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3-min read

Violent Prelude May Not Deter Urban Kolkata from Stepping Out to Vote Today

The violent precursor seems to have had no effect on the urban pockets and a few rural areas in West Bengal that are geared up to vote on Sunday.

Prema Rajaram | CNN-News18

Updated:May 19, 2019, 9:38 AM IST
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Violent Prelude May Not Deter Urban Kolkata from Stepping Out to Vote Today
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Kolkata: The violent clashes between ABVP and TMCP supporters during BJP chief Amit Shah’s roadshow and the desecration of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statute during the violence sent shockwaves through Kolkata days before voting in the seventh phase began.

But as urban pockets and a few rural areas gear up to vote on Sunday, the violent precursor seems to have had no effect on the sentiment to step out and vote.

Citizens in urban pockets say violence is just an excuse to not vote. “I will be voting, I have to vote and would tell all youngsters to vote. That is how the country will change. Press NOTA, but don’t spoil your vote. Violence is just an excuse for not voting. There has been violence in suburban areas in the past too, so I think people should come out and vote here as it is nothing new. You have to take that risk,” says Vicky Bajaj, a Kolkata resident.

Political analysts, too, feel people in Kolkata will step out to exercise their franchise.

“People who need the political patronage will vote. Else, how will they survive, especially when they are asked if they have voted. I don’t think the violence will make a difference. To someone living in an urban pocket, it doesn’t matter whether it is the BJP or the Congress that will form the government (at the Centre), it makes no difference. They will manage their lives any which way,” says political analyst Shikha Mukherjee.

Mukherjee also believes that BJP has shot itself in the foot with its prospects in West Bengal. “The BJP had invested a huge amount to show itself as a locally rooted party. With the single act of vandalising Vidyasagar’s statue, the party failed to understand the significance of the reformist and what it meant to every literate Bengali. To many, this was a sign that the BJP is not a local party and does not deserve to be voted in. Mamata walked for several kilometres during her padyatra because she is conveying the message that she stands with every Bengali who is anguished by the vandalism. This was stupidity for the BJP as nobody is giving them the benefit of doubt. TMCP waving flags and slogans is not violence,” adds Mukherjee.

Says fellow political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty, “BJP’s Kolkata North candidate Rahul Sinha has less chances of winning after this incident. The candidate from the Congress, Shahi Imam, has a good connect with the minority community. If minority votes are split between the TMC and the Congress, there is no chance for the TMC to win this seat too.”

The perception of the urban populace is that both parties resort to hooliganism. But that will not stop people from coming out to vote, says Chakraborty.

“Educated citizens in urban pockets think one hooligan party is being replaced by another. The way the TMC is exploiting local resources speaks for the party all these years and it is now being replaced by the BJP. Hardcore TMC supporters consider the BJP to be behind the vandalism of Vidyasagar’s statue as it is ‘the culture of BJP’. In the past, statues of Ambedkar in UP and Lenin in Tripura were desecrated,” adds Chakraborty.

Author and columnist Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, however, feels a BJP swing in certain areas. “I think in rural areas, many are swinging towards the BJP. Their logic is, ‘what have we got from the TMC?’. In Bangalore, all waiters and housekeeping staff in restaurants and hotels are Bengalis. They all wonder what the point of voting is. There are no jobs for men and safety for women in West Bengal. Many have got facilities like gas connection which is an initiative of the Centre, not the TMC. The news of violence is also a concern for many.”

“Secondly, in urban sections, they say we have no choice. The BJP is a communal party. They have lost faith in the TMC. Many who will be voting will press the NOTA button,” adds Sreemoyee.

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