Panchayat poll violence continues in Bengal as 5000 candidates withdraw

As violence continues to mar panchayat polls, Congress has joined BJP to demand deployment of Central forces in West Bengal

KOLKATA | Updated: 21 June, 2023 3:21 pm IST
Opposition parties allege that violence has been unleashed by ruling TMC to intimidate opposition candidate to withdraw from the race.

KOLKATA: Amidst the continuing violence in West Bengal, a total of 4,871 candidates withdrew their nominations for the panchayat polls scheduled for July 8.

Out of total withdrawals, 1,503 nominations belong to the BJP, 1,006 by the CPM, 383 by the Congress, 37 by the Forward Bloc, 1,107 by the Trinamool, and 670 by Independents.

In an unfortunate incident, a Trinamool Congress worker named Benoy Barman sustained injuries from sharp weapons in Dinhata town of Coochbehar.

Another act of violence occurred in the Baruan block of Murshidabad district, where miscreants allegedly snatched the authorization certificate (Form B) from Congress workers, leading to a clash between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress. While the Congress held TMC miscreants responsible, the Trinamool denied the allegations. The Congress demanded an opportunity to submit fresh B-forms.

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Speaking to The New Indian, veteran Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya expressed his concerns, saying, “Starting from Monday night (June 19), I have received numerous calls from different parts of the state. Our workers have been threatened to withdraw their nomination papers immediately. They were also warned that if they didn’t withdraw, there would be consequences.”

“Doesn’t this question the functioning of the police? Isn’t it their duty to protect the voters? Why should people suffer like this? Even on the last day of nomination withdrawal, there were reports of tremendous violence,” he said.

Bhattacharya said that Central security forces should be deployed across the state to ensure law and order during the elections in West Bengal. “Route marches should be conducted frequently; otherwise, it will be very difficult,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the state election commission challenging the Calcutta High Court order for deployment of Central forces during panchayat polls.

BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya stated, “Trinamool has set a target of winning 25,000 seats without facing any opposition. Last time, they won 20,000 seats. Most TMC leaders have called for ‘zero opposition’. The then TMC minister Partha Chatterjee (now expelled from the party over the SSC scam) initiated this, saying, ‘If the opposition becomes zero, it helps in development.’ This is TMC’s target.”

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“TMC workers, state police, and miscreants united to pressure opposition candidates into withdrawing their nominations. For TMC, the election is not a choice but a compulsion,” Bhattacharya argued.

He further described the obstacles faced by candidates while submitting nomination papers, including an atmosphere of fear, blockades by the TMC, and tremendous chaos. “There is no place for damage control for TMC because people have seen their true face. TMC will soon be abandoned by the people,” said the BJP leader.

More than two lakh nominations were submitted in 75,000 seats for the three-tier panchayat polls which is scheduled to take place on July 8.

The state comprises a total of 3,317 gram panchayats, 928 seats across 22 zilla parishads, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats, and 63,229 gram panchayat seats.

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