India’s election campaign is racked by dirty tricks

Mar 21, 2019

WHEN YOU are on the run from a murder rap, what better place to take refuge than with the ruling party? Or so reckon Amit and Debu. Since February the two friends from the rice- and mango-growing district of Nadia have camped in the rickety building near the University of Calcutta that serves as the bustling West Bengal state headquarters for prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The fugitives are party workers. They say they have been framed for the brutal murder in Nadia on February 28th of Sudhin Som, a youth leader from the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), a rival party that runs West Bengal like a fiefdom. They also say Mr Som had been on the verge of defecting to the BJP, and that the men who killed him at an election rally were most likely AITC goondas (thugs). Since the killing, they note, the BJP has been unable to work in Nadia. “All of our houses got shot at and ransacked,” says Amit, a computer programmer who claims that AITC thugs have beaten him up 20 times in the past three years. “They say that if you fly a BJP flag, we will cut off your hand.”

In the topsy-turvy of West Bengal politics, this could all be true. The state’s long-held reputation for political thuggery has deepened since Mamata Banerjee, the AITC’s founder and guiding force, captured power...

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