At least 10 people were killed amid widespread violence across West Bengal as the panchayat polls were held in the state on Monday (May 14).
The rural polls were held on Monday after the Calcutta High Court last month ordered the State Election Commission to reschedule the election dates.
Votes were done for 48,650 Gram Panchayat seats, 9217 Panchayat Samiti seats and 825 Zilla Parishad seats.
This election can be considered as a litmus test for Mamata Banerjee‘s government as 40 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state are in villages and semi-urban areas.
Before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India-Marxist [CPI(M)] and Congress have drawn their swords in an last attempt to have an upper hand in Bengal over the ruling Trinamool Comgress (TMC).
Pertinently, even before elections, TMC candidates were elected unopposed in 34% seats, which raised the concern of the Supreme Court and sparked widespread violence before and during Monday’s polls.
Voting began at 7 am and continued till 5 pm on Monday.
Counting of votes will take place on May 17.
For West Bengal panchayat polls, voters are being made to use ballot papers instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Security was beefed up across the state with over 1.5 lakh security personnel being deployed to handle violence.
However, as polling went underway, reports of violence started pouring in from mainly four districts – North 24 Parganas, Burdwan, Coochbehar and South 24 Parganas.
Here are all the details on West Bengal panchayat poll violence:
1. A Trinamool Congress (TMC) worker was allegedly beaten to death at Shantipur sub-division of Nadia district.
2. Another TMC activist was reportedly killed during poll violence at Kuktuli in South 24 Parganas.
3. The news of two deaths came from Murshidabad district and North 24 Parganas district respectively.
4. The TMC claimed two of their supporters were killed in poll violence at Amdanga in North 24 Parganas and East Midnapore’s Nandigram respectively.
5. A CPI-M worker and his wife were allegedly burned alive inside their house at Namkhana in South 24 Parganas by suspected TMC supporters.
6. According to a News18 report, a CPI-M worker was killed in a blast in North 24 Parganas during clashes, while a BJP activist was succumbed to blast injuries in Murshidabad.
7. The State Election Commission sent a show cause notice to TMC minister Rabindranath Ghosh for allegedly slapping a BJP poll agent at Natabari in Cooch Behar district.
8. At least 20 people, including a TMC candidate and a woman, were injured when unknown miscreants blasted a low-intensity bomb at a polling station at Shuktabari in North Bengal’s Cooch Behar district .
9. Violence was reported from North Bengal’s Alipurduar district where a political mob threatened and stopped voters from entering the polling booth.
10. In Cooch Behar district’s Dinhata subdivision, clashes broke out between two groups outside a polling booth, injuring few voters.
11. The CPI-M and the BJP accused TMC of hurling bombs outside polling stations in Burdwan district.
12. North 24 Parganas’ Bagda, unidentified miscreants allegedly stormed into a poll booth and tried to stamp ballot papers.
13. Clashes broke out at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district. There were reports of firing. The police had to hurl tear gas to control the mob. A media vehicle was damaged.
14. Senior CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury slammed the poll violence and said: “This is an open, naked murder of democracy. It is not just a law and order breakdown, but a total constitutional breakdown.”
15. State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said his party will take strict action against this poll violence.
16. However, the ruling TMC said the West Bengal panchayat polls were “peaceful” barring some “minor incidents.”
17. Senior TMC leader Derek O’Brien tweeted: “To all ‘newborn’ experts on Bengal #PanchayatElections in State have a history. 400 killed in poll violence in 1990s in CPIM rule. 2003: 40 dead.Every death is a tragedy. Now closer to normal than earlier times.Yes, few dozen incidents. Say,40 out of 58000 booths. What’s %age?”
“CPI(M) and BJP are now so desperate that they are even ganging up with Maoists to kill/shoot/stab three Trinamool workers in different incidents in #Bengal today. Deliberately trying to foment trouble. Is this democracy?” he posted.
Pic: Video grab from a Facebook post
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.