Bengal Panchayat polls: Parties blame each other for violence, BJP seeks President’s Rule

Kolkata/Behrampore: PCC claims voting, which was supposed to start at 7am on Saturday, had actually begun on Friday night

BY | Saturday, 8 July, 2023

All parties in West Bengal levelled allegations against each other for the violence that claimed the lives of 12 people in various districts as voting for the three-tier panchayat elections ended at 5pm, even as the opposition BJP called for President’s Rule in the state.

The party, which blamed the State Election Commissioner Rajiva Sinha for poll related deaths, shot off a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding his “intervention” in restoring democracy in the state alleging democracy has been “murdered in the state by the ruling party as the security forces played the role of an audience.”

The ruling Trinamool Congress, which lost eight of its supporters to poll violence, however accused the opposition of orchestrating violence and criticised the central forces for their failure to protect the voters.

In the letter signed by BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar it was claimed “15 political deaths occurred just on the day of poll,” as booth capturing, rigging and fake voting were seen across all the districts.”

He said TMC goons were “proactive in snatching voter/Aadhaar cards of the common voters as several karyakartas faced false cases and others were hospitalised.”

Majumdar claimed very few booths were covered by central armed paramilitary forces, while the rest were manned by police and civic volunteers.

Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said, “A free and fair election under the state administration is a mirage. It is only possible only if elections are held under President’s Rule or Article 355,” he told reporters.

Dismissing allegations of the state administration letting loose a reign of terror, state minister Bratya Basu claimed that it is the Trinamool Congress which has been at the “receiving end of the violence perpetuated by the opposition”.

“Of the 22 districts that went to rural polls, no incident of violence was reported in 16. Of the nearly 61,000 booths, incidents were reported in only 60. So, one can ascertain the ratio of violence in comparison with the areas where polls were held peacefully. It is lesser than one per cent,” another minister, Shashi Panja, said.

Twelve people, including eight from the ruling TMC and one worker each of the BJP, CPI(M), Congress and ISF, died since midnight in the crucial three-tier panchayat polls, officials said.

“A narrative is being spun by the opposition parties with the help of the Governor CV Ananda Bose and a section of the media that elections in West Bengal are always violent. There have been few instances of violence, but if you compare with previous elections, you will see that the incidents of violence and deaths have gone down drastically,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh claimed.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Chowdhury in a left handed compliment, “congratulated” Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee for winning the just-concluded violent rural polls.

“Congrats Didi, you have won the panchayat elections,” he said. “‘Aapni jite gechen’ (you have won),” he said, adding sarcastically that Banerjee’s injured leg will be fine on the counting day on July 11 and she will come out of her home and thank people for making her victorious in the polls.

He alleged that voting, which was supposed to start at 7am on Saturday, had actually begun on Friday night.

“Ballot boxes were taken out at night, false votes were cast and those were put back in the boxes before being returned to the polling booths,” Chowdhury alleged.

The PCC president said the polls were nothing but a farce. “If the polls were not held, then perhaps there wouldn’t have been so many deaths,” he said.

The CPI(M) accused the State Election Commission of enacting a farce in the name of holding panchayat elections and blamed the ruling party for the 12 deaths.

Alleging that loot took place during the polling, CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said it, however, did not succeed in all places as it is 2023 and not 2018 when the rural polls was a one-sided affair for the ruling party.

“The State Election Commission has enacted a farce in the name of holding the polls,” Chakraborty said.

Describing the polls as a “very dirty affair” having taken place, he claimed that widespread violence took place at the behest of activists of the ruling party.

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