BHANGAR: Five of the nine independent candidates in Bhangar, who had filed nominations through WhatsApp, won the Polerait II gram panchayat — the epicentre of anti-power grid movement on the southern fringes of the city.With the rest of the seats remaining with the ruling Trinamool Congress, the victory of the Independent candidates — backed by Jami Jibika Bastu O Paribesh Rakkha Committee — indicates an intensifying stir over the power substation being built by Power Grid Corporation.
Nine independent candidates, backed by the committee, had earlier moved Calcutta high court saying that they were being prevented from filing nomination for the Polerait II gram panchayat in Bhangar. At the HC’s intervention, the State Election Commission allowed the nine candidates to file their nominations through WhatsAppThis wasn’t lost on the chief minister herself too. “Within minutes of the Bhangar incident Arabul was arrested. He won from behind bars. So did his son and daughter-in-law. This only proves that they have people’s support. Yes, some independent candidates have won but four persons also lost. This is a central project that we are trying to implement. With the help of Maoists, they are creating trouble. People, however, are with us,” she told reporters.
The candidates had barely three days for campaigning after their nominations were accepted by the SEC. “The anti-power grid movement was a result of fear and intimidation by those in power. For the past one and ahalf years we have fought against the odds to get ourselves heard,” said Chhaleara Bibi, who won from the Munshibazar area (seat 92). “We were threatened each day, but we knew that people would support us,” she said. Ishraful Mollah, a graduate and a tailor by profession, has been at the forefront of the movement since the beginning. “I have never thought of getting into politics. But our worlds changed when Bhangar went on a boil. The mandate that we have today shows people have supported our cause,” he said.On the poll day, blood spilled in Bhangar with both the warring sides accusing each other of excess and violence. In places like Uttar Gazipur — a stronghold of Trinamool leader Arabul Islam — police had to intervene to control the mounting tension. Other areas, where committee supporters have a strong influence were kept out of bounds for vehicles.
Although the committeebacked candidates gained a foothold in the gram panchayat, control of the rural body remained with Arabul — the TMC candidate for the panchayat samiti. Arabul’s son Hakimul, who also won, said, “We are committed to the power grid project and we will continue to fight for that. Some of the independent candidates won the election as they resorted to violence and rigging.”