For a state starved of investment, lacking in jobs for millions of youths, saddled with a massive populace who still live below the poverty line and with a human development index well below the national average and comparable to that of Cambodia, one would think that development would be a keyword as West Bengal goes into the 2016 Assembly elections.
Instead of talking about feeding the poor, improving their lifestyle, building roads, providing sanitation, healthcare, education and jobs, parties are busy threatening each other and promising "revenge of blood" and leaders are coming out with innovative ways of shaming and getting back at their rivals post 19 May when the results are due to be announced. And sadly, even the Chief Minister is busy issuing threats and counter-threats in the election season.
Immediately after the Election Commission announced the dates for six-phase polls in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who has not made a secret of her displeasure about EC stretching the polls over one and a half months, told a TV channel in an interview that the "central forces will be around only for three days but after that, it is only her and her administration," prompting a memorandum to the EC from Left Front who accused the Trinamool Congress chief of issuing a veiled threat.
"The Chief Minister issued a veiled threat that the central forces will remain in Bengal until the elections are there, but after that what? This clearly means it is a threat," the Left leaders told EC, according to a report in NDTV
Bengal has a bitter history of electoral violence. It is all the more reason why leaders in responsible positions should exercise caution during their public rallies. Instead of setting the tone for a poll discourse around development, the Chief Minister spiced up the contest with another threat, this time a more blatant one during a public meeting on 31 March in Bengal's Bankura district.
"Nine TMC workers have been killed in the state since elections were declared. Election will be over after a month. We will remain here after that. We will not spare any of them (Opposition parties). We had shown enough manners after we won the last Assembly elections. Not anymore," she said in the rally.
Fresh from taking a hit in Narada sting videos showing ruling party leaders accepting bribes, the Chief Minister responded in her own style.
"The CPM leaders have built property worth thousands of crores and now they are calling the TMC thieves, a party which is comparatively younger. Once we are back (in power), we will ask for the accounts of their properties and they will have to answer us," she said, speaking to The Indian Express
Even as the TMC supremo was busy settling scores, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, also a party MP, was working hard on issuing his own set of threats to the Left during another rally in Purulia.
"After May 19 when the ballot boxes will be opened, the people of Bengal will witness a new Trinamool. We have been very courteous, we have given you many opportunities...but not anymore. In the days to come, inch by inch you will be given befitting reply... be prepared for that," said Abhishek, according to a report in Business Standard
Issuing threats isn't new to Abhishek, who was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014. During a meeting with party leaders and workers in June last year, Mamata Banerjee's nephew had warned the political rivals of gouging their eyes out if they have evil intentions.
“TMC MPs (have) showed we won’t spare anyone who tries to exploit the people of West Bengal. Until Mamata Banerjee is here, if anyone looks at West Bengal with evil intentions...we can gouge out their eyes and throw them on the streets. If hands are raised against us, we can chop off the hands as well,” Abhishek had said speaking to Hinudstan Times.
However, it is not as if the Left Front have been busy soaking up the punches in this free-for-all election season.
During a rally in Labhpur area of Bengal's Birbhum district last Thursday, CPIM leader and politburo member Mohammad Salim vowed to keep an account of every drop of blood shed by his party members.
According to another report in Business Standard, Mohammad Salim said "After the elections, we will take account of all murderers and executioners," he said. "We will take account of every drop of blood of our men who have embraced martyrdom,"
TMC's Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal threatened to lodge a complaint with the EC over Salim's remarks in a rather ironic move because the Commission had recently issued a show cause notice to Mondal for violating the model code of conduct.
Mondal, it appears, doesn't have much confidence in EC. Responding to Salim's comments about "taking an account of every drop of blood," the TMC leader has a rather simple solution.
"Salim-da is suffering from heat-stroke in this very hot election season. Once we win on 19 May, we shall pour ghol(lassi) over his head. That should cool him off," Mondal told the media.
Bengal, ever the 'progressive state' just lowered the bar of political discourse.