The West Bengal Panchayat Polls have garnered attention, not for the political contest, but for the escalating violence that has overshadowed the electoral process. Since the announcement of rural elections in Bengal, clashes, murders, and other disturbing incidents have plagued the state. As the polling day arrived on Saturday, the violence persisted, resulting in several casualties and destruction of ballot boxes. The clash between the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and CPI(M) has intensified, with each party blaming the other for the tumultuous situation.
Tragically, at least 11 people lost their lives in election-related violence in West Bengal. Among the victims were five TMC members, one BJP worker, one CPI(M) supporter, one Congress worker, and a supporter of an Independent candidate. Violent clashes injured several individuals, and ballot boxes were destroyed at multiple polling booths.
The TMC claimed that three of its party workers were murdered in Rejinagar, Tufanganj, and Khargram, while two others were injured by gunshots in Domkol. West Bengal minister Shashi Panja expressed shock and grief over the incidents, criticizing the BJP, CPI(M), and Congress for demanding central forces but witnessing inadequate deployment on the ground.
West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose referred to the Panchayat polls as the “most sacred day for democracy” and stressed the importance of conducting elections peacefully, with ballots instead of bullets. He expressed concern over the reports of violence and disturbances, emphasizing the need to ensure a fair and safe electoral process. Also Read: PM Modi Criticizes “Family-Centric” Opposition Parties for False Assurances and Lack of Unity
In a distressing incident, a BJP candidate alleged that she was attacked by hooligans, leading to injuries, while her polling agent tragically lost his life in an attack at a polling booth in Cooch Behar. The candidate, Maya Burman, accused the TMC of orchestrating the attack, stating that TMC goons threw a bomb at her agent, resulting in his death. She herself was admitted to the hospital for treatment.
Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in West Bengal and BJP member, condemned the state government for the violence, referring to the situation as a “carnival of DEMO’N’CRACY.” Adhikari criticized Mamata Banerjee’s administration for the lack of central forces, non-operational CCTV cameras, and the collusion between TMC goons and the police, which he claimed was responsible for the escalating violence and loss of lives.
Reports of booth attacks and ballot box destruction continued to emerge from various districts during West Bengal Panchayat Polls. Miscreants damaged a polling booth in Cooch Behar and set the ballot box on fire shortly after voting commenced. In Jalpaiguri, another booth was attacked, leading to the discontinuation of voting. In Kolabedia area of Domkal, TMC and Congress workers clashed over queue jumping by voters, while ballot boxes were stolen and a booth in Barasat was destroyed during the polls. In Hooghly’s Dhamsa, residents threw two ballot boxes into a pond after a scuffle broke out between TMC and BJP workers at a polling booth, alleging the absence of central forces at the center.
The TMC accused the BJP of attacking its booth committee member in Tufanganj 2 panchayat samiti, resulting in his death. In another clash between TMC and Congress supporters in Malda district at West Bengal Panchayat Polls, the brother of a TMC leader lost his life. The incidents of violence and casualties continued to rise, further exacerbating the tense atmosphere in the state.
Accusations were also made against the jawans of central forces deployed at various booths. The TMC alleged that the jawans were urging people to vote for the BJP, a claim that was vehemently denied by TMC leader Kunal Ghosh. Despite these allegations, Ghosh expressed confidence that the people of West Bengal would not be swayed by the appeals made by central forces.
Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur condemned the violence, stating that the announcement of polls in Bengal marked the beginning of the “murder of democracy.” He criticized Mamata Banerjee’s government for the rampant violence, looting of ballot boxes, and suppression of democracy. Thakur questioned the silence of Congress and Rahul Gandhi on the matter, especially considering the party’s desire to form an alliance with Mamata Banerjee.
MD Salim, a leader from the CPI(M), attributed the violence during the West Bengal panchayat elections to the lack of coordination between central forces, state police, and the coordinating department in the Home Ministry. He lamented the situation, expressing his concerns for the safety of the people.
Amidst the ongoing violence, incidents of arson were reported in Birbhum district, where several vehicles were set ablaze. Additionally, a polling booth in Dinhata’s Baranachina witnessed a ballot box being set on fire allegedly by angry voters, who were irked by reports of bogus voting.
The West Bengal Panchayat Polls have become a battleground for political parties, leading to tragic loss of lives, destruction of property, and disruptions in the electoral process. The violence between the TMC and BJP continues to escalate, with both sides accusing each other of inciting and perpetrating the clashes. The state’s political landscape is being deeply affected by these events, raising concerns about the democratic process.
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