The colours and clamour of West Bengal elections

gallery-image Fever pitch: A boy plays cricket in Kolkata in front of a Trinamool graffiti with “khela hobe” (game on) written on it.
gallery-image Back-ing the leader: A BJP supporter with the slogan “Modi ke chai” (We want Modi) painted on his back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in South 24 Parganas.
gallery-image Masked up: An elderly person interacts with an official at a polling booth in West Midnapore.
gallery-image Strange bedfellows: A rally in Kolkata jointly held by the CPI(M) and the Congress.
gallery-image Sounds of a campaign: A worker stacks loudspeakers for a public meeting at the Brigade Parade Ground in Kolkata.
gallery-image Taking his shot: A CRPF jawan kicks a stray ball while patrolling on the outskirts of Kolkata.
gallery-image Keeping the faith: A BJP supporter at a rally in Kolkata.
gallery-image Safety first: Workers sanitise the dias before Prime Minister Modi’s meeting at Sahaganj in Dunlop.

Among the many festivals of West Bengal, the election season stands apart. This year, the campaigns were grander than usual. The state has never seen so many national leaders and political heavyweights whip up a storm like they did this time around. With movie stars in the fray—both as candidates and campaigners—multitudes gathered at the rallies, regardless of their political leanings.

From kites to sweets, saris to body art, masks to face paint, party symbols were everywhere. Another first was that over 700 companies of Central Reserve Police Force were deployed statewide to ensure smooth running of the polls. The echo of their heavy boots aroused as much fear in the hearts of the people as they instilled a sense of security in them.

THE WEEK captured the colours and textures of the spectacle that was the 2021 assembly elections in Bengal. Festoons, posters and hoardings fluttered across the state’s skies in every party’s colours, even as giant photographs of the leaders stared at citizens from their perches. The battle cries of “asol poriborton (real change)”, in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and “khela hobe” (game on), coming from the Trinamool Congress camp, rent the air as election fever ran high.

Come May 2, the results will finally reveal the fate of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the toughest political contest of her five-decade-long career.