Kolkata: Today was the last day for campaigning in Ballygunge constituency for the by-election. Here it is important to mention what happened to the dissent’s campaign #NoVoteToBabulSupriyo when only a year back, #NoVoteToBJP pioneered by the same people were allowed to operate across the state.
The same set of people who had been instrumental in spearheading the CAA-NRC protest. They claim that both their campaigns had directly benefited the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) during the 2021 assembly polls.
Babul Supriyo, the Bollywood singer and former BJP minister is accused of the 2018 Asansol riots. Since he was inducted into TMC, since then several intellectuals expressed concern as to why a ‘hate monger’ has been taken in the party, which claims to be doing secular politics. But, when Supriyo’s name was announced from the Ballygunge seat, it angered many as minority voters were a decisive factor. It is being seen as minorities who voted TMC en masses, are being taken for granted and a riot accused has been put on them. Soon, protests from small to major get started in Kolkata.
However, on April 1, when activists gave a call for ‘No Vote To Babul Supriyo’, the protesters were arrested even before they could raise any slogan near Park Circus Maidan, Kolkata. The city which witnessed protests now and then, soon found that 26 people including Prasenjit Bose, Manzer Jameel, Imtiaz Mollah and Amit Dasgupta being removed from the protest site and taken to different police stations. It happened despite protesters had permission from the Election Commission.
However, it did not stop here. When they were released and they pledged to organise a rally in support of Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate Saira Shah Halim, they were not permitted to hold it on April 7. The permission was denied saying that there is another rally in the same location by other political party. It was TMC’s National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee’s roadshow in support of Babul Supriyo.
This time the Election Commission, with reference to the Kolkata police, denied the permission. But, the larger question which arises is – werent two parties allowed to hold their rallies in the same locality at the same time earlier? On April 8, another group of civil rights activists gave a call for a rally to promote the No vote to Babul Supriyo, but they were denied permission too.
“What is happening now, has never happened in Bengal. One after another permission is being denied for political rallies. Is it a democratic Bengal?” rued activist and CPI-ML member Sumon Sengupta. CPI-ML was part of the No Vote To BJP campaign. Not only did its cadres actively participate in the campaign but the party’s National General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya had addressed rallies too.
Now it will be interesting to see whether suppressing dissent will have an impact on the voting, which will take place on April 12.
There are mainly four political parties candidates in the fray for the Ballygunge by-election– TMC’s Babul Supriyo, Saira Shah Halim of CPM, Congress’ Karuzamman Choudhury and Keya Ghosh of BJP.