Kolkata: One of the most blatant attempts to rig the result of a gram panchayat seat in West Bengal has backfired. An independent candidate has defeated the local Trinamool heavyweight in the fight for a seat at Krisnaganj, Nadia district, the very place where a man in a pink shirt was seen in a viral video furiously stamping ballot papers at a counting centre on Thursday, the counting day.
Trinamool leaders dismissed the video as "contrived". But the State Election Commission took note, sought a police report and suspended counting. It was only after two men were arrested - not the one in pink shirt - that counting resumed and results were declared late at night.
Niladri Shukul, the independent candidate, returned home early Friday morning with the winner's certificate, almost unable to believe his luck.
"They tried to use force to defeat me but they could not. This is the victory of truth. I have got justice and I am very happy, " said Mr Shukul, 35, who was backed in the polls by rebel Trinamool groups and the CPM.
When counting was in full swing at Majhdia Sudhir Ranjan Lahiri College on Thursday morning, suddenly crude bombs were hurled outside and a gang of miscreants stormed in. They cut the wire mesh that surrounds the counting area and a man in pink shirt grabbed a ballot box, pulled out ballot papers and started stamping on them with a stamp and ink pad he had brought along.
Initially, poll officers did not understand what he was doing. But Niladri Shukul did. He was at that time ahead of the Trinamool candidate by 220 votes. The miscreants had come to change that.
How? The man in the pink shirt did not vote in favour of the Trinamool candidate. He stamped ballot papers where the vote was in favour of the independent candidate.The double stamping would render the ballot paper invalid and the independent's vote count would fall.
24 hours later, he is still edgy because those miscreants are still out there, he says. Two men have been arrested but not the one in pink shirt and other miscreants.
"I would be happy if they gave me some security," Mr Shukul said.
His worries won't end in a hurry. The Shibnibas gram panchayat where he has won a seat has a Trinamool majority. Of 13 seats in the gram panchayat, Trinamool has won 7 and BJP 5. Shukul is the lone Independent and getting work done will be an uphill challenge. Shukul knows that.
But his victory he says has reinforced his faith in just deserts.