West Bengal panchayat polls: Repoll in 697 booths

20 people died as blame game began for Saturday’s violence-marred polls

| Updated: 10 July, 2023 3:41 pm IST
Images of ballot looting, throwing away of ballot boxes and burning of ballot papers were common on Saturday's poll 

KOLKATA: At least 20 people died and many others were injured as violence marred West Bengal panchayat elections on Saturday. However, sources in the West Bengal State Election Committee (WBSEC) claimed that 10 people had been killed.

Images of ballot looting, the throwing away of ballot boxes and burning of ballot papers refreshed the minds of the voters as West Bengal went to repoll in 697 polling booths on Monday.

With 175 polling booths, Murshidabad district will see the maximum number of repolls. Malda is next with 110 repolling booths, while Nadia will see 89 booths going to repoll. Incidentally, repoll was ordered in all 22 districts.

ALSO READ: No more the land of Bhadralok: BJP on West Bengal violence

Speaking to The New Indian, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shamik Bhattacharya said, “This is a mockery of democracy. I am speechless. Everything is in the public domain. Election rigging, murder, rape threats, ruthless beatings — everything happened during the election. This is shameless.”

Despite the presence of 822 companies of central forces, The New Indian found on Saturday that in many places there is no visible presence of the central forces.

“There has been delayed movement of central forces, which was what TMC (Trinamool Congress, the state’s ruling party) wanted and they successfully did it. The Kolkata high court’s order was not complied with. The only difference is that people, especially the village women, protested this time against such mayhem,” Bhattacharya said.

ALSO READ: Violent clashes mark West Bengal panchayat polls

CPI(M) which had ruled the state for more than 30 years, before Mamata Banerjee’s TMC shut the door on them, claimed that people were shocked to see the situation.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakroborty said, “From snatching of ballot papers to pouring water in the ballot boxes, violence, murders, the whole world has seen what has happened (on Saturday). The WBSEC was indifferent to the situation.”

“TMC workers have also died. Not a single word came from CM (Mamata Banerjee). The Governor of the state was on the street to take stock of the situation, but it is not his duty to do so,” Chakroborty added.

The CPI(M) also blamed the WBSEC for the violence. “The state election commission was not serious. The state government never wanted it (the central forces). People are left to fend for themselves,” he added.

ALSO READ: Elections through ballot, not bullets: WB Governor calls for peace

The ruling TMC, however, claimed that violence took place only in 0.00097 per cent of the booths.

“Most of the deaths were TMC workers, which proves the opposition took the law into their own hands and created violence. TMC wanted a very peaceful election, but opposition parties took the path of violence,” Dr Shantanu Sen, TMC Rajya Sabha MP, said.

“Out of 66,000 booths, there were hardly 60 booths where such violence took place and people voted peacefully in the rest of the booths,” he added.

“SEC never said that they were incompetent and needed the central forces. Because of the court order the election Commission sought for the central forces, applications were submitted. Unfortunately, the Union Home minister could not provide central forces in due course. It’s a complete failure of home ministry,” says Dr Sen.

ALSO READ: Amid reports of violence, West Bengal votes

West Bengal governor CV Ananda Rao had flown to Delhi to meet Union Home minister Amit Shah and submit a report on the violence during the panchayat election.

TMC contested in all 928 seats in zilla parishads, 9,419 seats in panchayat samitis and 61,591 seats in gram panchayats. The BJP contested in 897 zilla parishad seats, 7,032 panchayat samiti seats and 38,475 seats in gram panchayats.

The CPI(M) fought on 747 zilla parishad seats, 6,752 panchayat samiti seats and 35,411 gram panchayat seats. The Congress is fighting in 644 zilla parishad seats, 2,197 panchayat samiti seats and 11,774 gram panchayat seats.

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