Bolpur, 13 July: With political fortunes swinging wildly, the Left Front has been reduced to such a pitiable state in Birbhum that it has been left with a single candidate in the panchayat polls at its former stronghold Illambazar.
CPI-M’s Mrs Annapurna Mukherjee, the outgoing Sabhadhipat of Birbhum zilla parishad, is the lone Left nominee who will be striving to keep the Left presence alive at Illambazar block when voting takes place there on 22 July.
Illambazar block has 116 gram panchayat seats spread over nine gram panchayats, 25 panchayat samiti seats and two zilla parishad seats.
This time around out of the nine panchayats, the CPI-M could file only 12 nominations form the three gram panchayats of Illambazar, Ghurisa and Joydeb. In the 25 panchayat samiti seats, CPI-M filed three nominations and of the two zilla parishad seats it put up a candidate for one seat. But later barring the one zilla parishad seat from where the outgoing Sabhadhipati, Ms Mukherjee is in the fray, all other contestants withdrew their nominations.
In the last panchayat polls all the panchayat seats at Illambazar block ~ be it the gram panchayat, panchayat samiti and the zilla parishad ~ were bagged by the Left. Of them a majority was won by the CPI-M, followed by a substantial chunk that went to the RSP and the Forward Block.
District Left Front leaders accepted that with their organisation rendered very weak, they could not find candidates to contest the rural polls in a large part of Illambazar block, adding that the ruling Trinamul Congress’ terror tactics made matters worse.
"In a large part of Illambazar block our party members could not file nomination as the ruling party was constantly threatening them; in some other localities we could not find candidates who were willing to contest on Left Front’s ticket," said Mr Samir Bhattacharya, a Birbhum district committee member of the CPI-M. "They (TMC cadres) threatened our prospective candidates and a few women candidates were even physically harassed forcing them to withdraw their nominations," said another CPI-M leader. The Trinamul Illambazar block president, Mr Zafarul Islam, refuted the charges. "Who will contest for the Left? Wherever we are going campaigning, people are blaming the Left for undertaking no development work in the block in past 10-15 years," he said.