West Bengal panchayat polls | Political blame game over violence

Majority of those killed were our supporters, TMC leadership said, alleging that Opposition parties were indulging in an ‘advertisement of violence’

July 08, 2023 10:16 pm | Updated July 09, 2023 11:42 am IST - Kolkata

 Elderly voters at a polling station to cast their votes for West Bengal Panchayat elections, in South Dinajpur district, on July 8, 2023.

Elderly voters at a polling station to cast their votes for West Bengal Panchayat elections, in South Dinajpur district, on July 8, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), which tried to downplay the large-scale violence during the West Bengal panchayat polls, on Saturday blamed the Opposition parties orchestrating the violence.

The TMC, through a series of tweets and messages by its party leaders, said that the majority of those killed in the poll-related violence were from it.

“False narratives are being circulated about the Panchayat Election by @BJP4Bengal,@CPIM_WESTBENGAL and @INCWestBengalto defame us. Out of the 27 deaths, 17 have been of TMC workers, accounting for over 60% of the total casualties. All this while, the Central Forces assumed the role of a bystander,” the Trinamool Congress said from its official Twitter handle. At least 30 deaths, including 12 on the day of polling, have been reported since nominations for the West Bengal panchayat polls were issued on June 8.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, who said that Opposition parties were indulging in an ”advertisement of violence”, raised the question that if the ruling party was behind the violence, why would its supporters constitute the majority of those who died? 

Also Read | Unedifying row: On panchayat polls in West Bengal and security

State’s Minister Sashi Panja and Bratya Basu also joined Mr. Ghosh, emphasising that the party was at the “receiving end of the violence perpetuated by the Opposition”.

“Serious incidents took place in only 8-9 booths… The Opposition parties had demanded the presence of central forces, but we need to question their role in this election. We have come to know that the Border Security Force and the central forces were trying to influence the voters,” Dr. Panja said. She pointed out that out of the 61,539 polling booths, there was trouble “only in around 60 booths”.

A farce, says Opposition

Political parties in the Opposition said that the panchayat elections in the State had turned into a farce. Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary Md. Salim, while sharing videos of ballot boxes thrown outside polling booths tweeted: “Vote is over! Condition of the ballots, ballot boxes in one of the booths. Btw this pic is from Diamond Harbour. TMC did exactly what they practiced during ‘Bhepon Yatra’ under the patronage of @WBPolice.”

The Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, said that in the name of a vote, there had been loot, and sought that Article 355 or 356 of the Constitution be imposed in the State.

“There is a solution to this in the Constitution. The Governor does not intend to do it and I am not sure whether the Government of India is considering that also. Unless Article 356, Article 355 during the elections is imposed in the State, there cannot be free and fair elections,” Mr. Adhikari said. He said that the panchayats elected through such a farcical elections will be illegal and Central funds should not be provided to them.

State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on the developments centered around the State’s panchayat polls. The Home Minister spoke to the BJP president on the issue.

West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Chowdhury also alleged large-scale malpractices in the election process.“’Apni jite gechen‘ (you have won),” Mr. Chowdhury said, sarcastically congratulating Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for her victory in panchayat polls.

“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,” the Congress leader alleged.

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