Grand masters make razor-edged moves as West Bengal polls reach endgame

The most important part of any chess bout is the endgame. The grandmasters are separated from the challengers by their ability to either maintain or squander an advantage with only a few pieces left on the board.

As the excruciatingly long West Bengal Assembly Elections reaches endgame with 25 seats (16 in East Midnapore and 9 in Cooch Behar) going to polls in the sixth phase on Thursday, the cut and thrust intensified as major players rearranged their pieces and went for the jugular in final round of campaigning.

Interestingly, instead of the kings or the queen, pawns became the centre of all attention. Be it the ruling Trinamool Congress, Left Front-Congress alliance or even the Election Commission, the police came under fire from all quarters.

Left fires 'secret meeting' charge, TMC sees red

Left Front fired the first salvo. State secretary Surya Kanta Mishra in a media conference on Tuesday alleged a "secret meeting" between Subhendu Adhikari, TMC MP and candidate from Nandigram constituency and a few senior police officers at the dead of the night where a blueprint was allegedly chalked out to defang the central forces by offering them liquor and money. It would then be easier, said Mishra, for the compromised cops to aid rigging on 5 May, the polling day.

Surya Kanta Mishra. File photo.PTI

Surya Kanta Mishra. File photo.PTI

"Subhendu Adhikari held a secret meeting with the O-Cs of seven police stations in Banamali College of Panskura, East Midnapore, late on May 1 night," Mishra said at a media conference. "We have information that the officers were briefed by Subhendu on the role they would have to play on the day of the elections… We even know which shop will supply the ration of food and alcohol," he said.

Urging the Election Commission to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant against Adhikari, Mishra said the party has lodged a complaint with the EC in Delhi, seeking prompt intervention.

The Left Front has also knocked on the doors of Sunil Kumar Gupta, EC's man in charge of Bengal, and submitted a memorandum.

And to pile up even more pressure, CPI(M)'s East Midnapore secretary Niranjan Sihi has simultaneously fired a missive to the EC. Singling out Panskura, Moyna, Haldia, Marishda and Ramnagar O-Cs, Sihi wrote in his letter that these officers will arrange liquor and meat for the jawans while Adhikari will take care of the cash.

The charges triggered a volcanic denial from the ruling party. Under fire Subhendu suggested that Mishra, the alliance's CM candidate, is suffering from hallucinations and should consult a doctor immediately. His father, Kontai MP Sisir Adhikary threatened to take the CPIM leader to court.

"Being an MP with high priority security, Suvendu's movement are constantly monitored by the police. This is nothing but malicious campaign and we will soon be initiating legal action against Mishra," he said.

And TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said these cock-and-bull stories prove fear of loss has made Mishra delusional.

The O-Cs have also issued denials, pointing out that the venue mentioned by Mishra has been the base camp for central forces since afternoon on May Day and such a meeting therefore would have been impossible to hold.

Whether or not the allegations are true, the CPI(M) has managed to put TMC on the defensive and elicit a prompt reaction from the EC which has so far shown steely resolve in controlling rigging and violence. The panel, which has transferred or removed 67 officers — an unprecedented number — in the run up to six-phase elections, indicated that district administration would be asked to file an immediate report.

Narrative and counter-narrative

In Samuel Beckett's Endgame, variations are created by the play's characters until the very end to construct meaning and create narratives. In much the same way, the Left is trying to create a counter-narrative to Mamata Banerjee's allegations against the police.

Faced with an unusually proactive and strict vigilance, Mamata at an election rally on Sunday had said that 'bhitu' (coward) police are acting like 'dalals' (touts) of the BJP, CPI(M) and Congress and creating a reign of terror in the state. The Left Front's move could therefore be targeted at ensuring that cops, under fire from the Chief Minister, do not take their foot off the pedal.

In endgame, it is crucial to put the opposition under immense pressure so that concerns over defence leave little time for planning an attack. The CPI(M) opened another front against the Chief Minister on Tuesday by alleging that Mamata Banerjee has stationed herself in Jalpaiguri and has taken along a few handpicked CID officers including the controversial Bharati Ghosh to influence the voting process.

An IPS officer who has courted controversy in the past due to her proximity to Mamata Banerjee, Ghosh was transferred by the commission in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha as well, acting on a spate of complaints by the opposition. When the poll process was over, the TMC government reinstated her as West Midnapore SP and she was awarded the chief minister's commendable service medal on 15 August, 2014.

This year, Ghosh was appointed as an officer on special duty of Left-wing extremism operations, a berth created for her by the state government ostensibly to avoid an encore of 2014. The move, however, failed to escape EC censure as the panel removed her from the post as soon as polling season got under way.

EC restricts Mamata's favourite cop

On Tuesday, the EC shot off a letter to Nabanna, the administrative headaquarters, asking the Bengal government to ensure that Ghosh does not leave her station of duty in Kolkata till the end of polling on Thursday. The panel was acting on reports, including the one fired by the CPI(M), that Ghosh was moving around in the districts and trying to micro-manage voting.

The EC appears to have now employed the Berlin defense to counter TMC's Ruy Lopez.

Updated Date: May 04, 2016 14:40 PM

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