Parties begin blame game as violence takes centre stage in West Bengal panchayat polls


Kolkata: Violence gripped West Bengal as the state held single-phase panchayat polls Saturday. Political parties in the state claimed their workers were targeted and killed.

The Trinamool Congress has claimed 60 per cent of the casualties on polling day but the party did not give a number. The unofficial figures of TMC casualties stood at 8.

On the other hand the BJP, CPIM, Congress and ISF officially claimed they had lost one party worker each.

The State EC was yet to share official data Sunday morning but state election commissioner Rajiva Sinha said three  deaths were directly reported to the State EC.

Earlier, addressing media on the election day, Sinha had said, “Committing murder is a crime against the State, not SEC,” said state election commissioner Rajiva Sinha at the poll body’s office Saturday.

“We received 1,200-1,300 complaints of ballot papers and boxes being vandalised, presiding officers being intimidated, and 600 (of those) were resolved,” he said.   

“Our arrangements were fool-proof. Since 6-7am, I have been in constant touch with the district magistrates. Law and order is a State subject, the police are acting on ground but we cannot guarantee who will pull the trigger at whom,” he added. 

Polling was held across 3,317 gram panchayat seats, 928 seats of 22 zilla parishads, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats, and 63,239 ward member seats during the state’s three-tier panchayat polls. 

Meanwhile, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Opposition resorted to blaming each other for the violence. 

At a press conference Saturday, minister Shashi Panja said, “The Opposition parties are maligning the TMC and trying to create a false narrative about violence. 13-14 districts had smooth voting. But the role of the central forces is questionable. Among those killed, 60 per cent were TMC workers.”

Also read: Bengal governor targets election commissioner on ‘poll violence’ — ‘don’t underestimate power of common man’

Violence, vandalisation

West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Dr. Sukanta Majumdar spoke to the party’s national president J.P. Nadda. He also spoke to the office of Home Minister Amit Shah, regarding political violence and said he would be submitting a detailed report.  Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari has demanded President’s Rule in the state. 

Congress leader and advocate Kaustav Bagchi has sent an email to the Calcutta High Court chief justice to constitute a special bench and take suo motu action and declare the panchayat poll “null and void”. He also sought an FIR against the state election commissioner for the political killings. 

Ballot boxes were allegedly set ablaze in Cooch Behar’s Sitai. In places, ballot boxes were looted, fake votes polled, and boxes thrown into the ponds. Presiding officers were seen breaking down after being intimidated. “This is election of loot, that the TMC will be doing for the next five years,” Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said to the media. 

Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Dr C.V. Ananda Bose visited North 24 Parganas and Nadia to take stock of the situation. “Elections should be fought through ballots and not bullets. I expected a peaceful election, my motorcade was stopped, and voters told me murders are being committed. I urge the people to go out and vote, they alone can resolve the situation. Vote according to your conscious. It is a day to protect our people and not blame anyone,” said the Governor to the media

The Calcutta High Court had ordered deployment of central forces across the state for free and fair rural elections. The central forces will continue to remain in the state till 10 days after the results on 11 July, according to the court order last Monday. 

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

Also read: Peasant revolts, riots & muscle-flexing — why violence runs deep in Bengal politics



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