Kolkata: The era of violence in West Bengal is not taking its name. Over 15 people have been killed in poll-related violence as voting for the three-tier panchayat elections in the state continued on Saturday. According to officials, six people from the Trinamool Congress (TMC) were among those killed. Whereas, one worker each from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Congress, and Indian Secular Front (ISF), and one other person, whose identity has not been revealed. According to officials, several people were also injured in the violent clashes. In addition, there were reports of ballot boxes being set on fire and destroyed at polling stations in several parts of the state.
Bombed polling booth
There were reports of stone pelting and bomb hurling at booth numbers 25 and 26 in the Nagahariya area of English Bazar in Malda district. Policemen are present on the spot. Some people have been reported injured. At the same time, there is news of the death of one person in a bomb blast at Fulmalchha Basanti polling station. South 24 Parganas SDPO (Canning Zone) Dibakar Das said, “We suspect that he has died but before saying anything on that, have sent him to the hospital where only doctors will tell. A bomb was thrown here which hit the person directly in the head. The age of the person is about 30 years.
Voting started at seven in the morning
Let us tell you that the polling started at 7 am in 73,887 seats in the rural areas of the state. 5.67 crore voters were supposed to decide the fate of around 2.06 lakh candidates but due to the violence, many people have not voted. People alleged that they were being asked by goons not to go to vote.
BJP’s polling agent murdered
According to officials, BJP’s polling agent Madhav Biswas was allegedly killed in Coochbehar district’s Falimari gram panchayat. The BJP alleged that when Biswas tried to enter the polling booth, Trinamool Congress supporters stopped them and they killed Biswas as the brawl escalated. However, the Trinamool Congress has denied the allegations.
Independent candidate’s supporter beaten to death in North 24 Parganas
According to police, a supporter of an independent candidate was beaten to death late on Friday night in the Kadambagachi area of North 24 Parganas district. Superintendent of Police Bhaskar Mukherjee told reporters that 41-year-old Abdullah Ali had died. But later the Superintendent of Barasat Hospital said that Ali is seriously injured and is on a ventilator, he has not died.
TMC worker killed in violence in Murshidabad
Officials said a Trinamool Congress worker was killed in late-night poll-related violence in the Kapasdanga area of Murshidabad district. Officials said that the deceased has been identified as Babar Ali. Another Trinamool Congress worker, identified as Sabiruddin SK, was killed in the Khargram area of the district. The Trinamool Congress also alleged that one of its booth committee members in Cooch Behar’s Tufanganj 2 panchayat committee was killed in an attack by the BJP.
TMC leader killed in a violent clash in Malda
The brother of a Trinamool Congress leader was killed in clashes with Congress supporters in Malda district, police said. He said that the incident took place at Jisharattola under the Manikchak police station area and the deceased has been identified as Malek Shaikh. The Trinamool Congress also alleged that one of its workers was killed in Chhapra, Nadia.
ISF worker killed in a clash
An ISF personnel was killed in clashes with the Trinamool Congress in the Haringhat area of Nadia district, police said. The victim has been identified as Saidul Shaikh, 48. Trinamool Congress’s Nadia unit president Debasish Ganguly claimed that the incident took place when ISF workers hurled crude bombs at Trinamool Congress workers. “A bomb fell from his hand and it exploded,” he claimed.” However, Sheikh’s family alleged that he was killed in an attack by Trinamool Congress supporters.
Four people died in South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, and East Barddhaman
A 38-year-old man was killed at Basanti in South 24 Parganas district, police said. The incident took place in the Fulmalancha area and the deceased has been identified as Anisur. A Congress worker was allegedly killed in election-related violence in Murshidabad’s Rejinagar police station area. The slain activist has been identified as Yasmin SK. CPI(M)’s Rajibul Haque was seriously injured in an attack by Trinamool Congress supporters in the Aushgram 2 block of East Barddhaman district. He died during treatment in a hospital. The Trinamool Congress alleged that CPI(M) supporters in the Katawa area of the district of his supporters were killed outside a polling station. The deceased has been identified as Gautam Roy.
Destroyed the ballot boxes, set them on fire
There were also reports of destruction of ballot boxes and intimidation of voters from some areas. According to officials, ballot boxes were smashed and ballot papers set on fire at a polling station at Barvita Government Primary School in Dinhata in Cooch Behar district. At another polling station in the Baranchina area, locals also set ablaze a ballot box with ballot papers alleging foul play, he said. Protests were also held in various areas demanding the deployment of central forces. In Nandigram, women voters gheraoed a police officer with poison bottles in their hands and demanded that central forces be deployed in the area.
Meeting people injured in violence
Governor CV Anand Bose visited various areas of North 24 Parganas, met those injured in the violence, and listened to their grievances. Bose told reporters, “People on the way requested me to stop my convoy. There are so many stories to tell, he told me about the murder incidents happening around him. He also said that the goons did not allow him to go to the polling stations and the presiding officers did not listen to him. These are isolated cases, but even a single incident of bloodshed should be a cause of concern for all of us.” The governor said, “This is the most sacred day for democracy. These are isolated incidents, but they must stop.
Questions raised on central force
The ruling Trinamool Congress questioned where are the central forces, which were brought in for the elections. State minister Shashi Panja asked, “Shocking incidents are being reported since last night. The BJP, the CPI(M), and the Congress had colluded and demanded central forces. Where are they posted after all? Trinamool Congress workers are being killed. Where is the centripetal force?
The Trinamool Congress also alleged that Border Security Force (BSF) personnel tried to create a ruckus in the border village of Gitaldaha in Cooch Behar and disrupted the election process. Sharing a video of open ballot boxes kept in the field, CPI(M) state secretary Mohammad Salim tweeted, “Voting is over. Position of ballots, ballot boxes in a polling station. By the way, this picture is of Diamond Harbour.
70,000 police personnel and 600 companies of central forces deployed for the elections
Around 70,000 personnel of the state police besides 600 companies of central forces have been deployed for the panchayat elections in West Bengal. Sharing a video on Twitter, BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar alleged that the State Election Commission (SEC) was reluctant to deploy central forces sent to West Bengal. He asked, “On one hand the SEC was reluctant to deploy central forces. On the other hand, civilian workers were deployed on election duty. This clearly shows that the State Government and the SEC have hoodwinked the court. Is SEC helping Trinamool goons to capture booths by keeping quiet?
Panchayat elections are very important for political parties
The state has 63,229-gram panchayat seats and 9,730 panchayat samiti seats in 22 districts, while 928 zilla parishad seats in 20 districts. Long queues were seen outside polling stations since 6 am amid intermittent rain. The ruling Trinamool Congress is contesting all 928 Zilla Parishad seats, 9,419 Panchayat Samiti seats, and 61,591 Gram Panchayat seats. The BJP has fielded candidates in 897 Zilla Parishad seats, 7,032 Panchayat Samiti seats, and 38,475 Gram Panchayat seats. The CPI(M) is contesting 747 Zilla Parishad seats, 6,752 Panchayat Samiti seats, and 35,411 Gram Panchayat seats. The Congress is contesting 644 Zilla Parishad seats, 2,197 Panchayat Samiti seats, and 11,774 Gram Panchayat seats.
Panchayat elections are considered very important for political parties, as they will give an opportunity to assess the strength and weaknesses of their organization before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Apart from this, this election will also underline the mood of the state regarding the first two years of the third consecutive term of the Trinamool Congress government.