The death toll in the violence that marred the panchayat elections in West Bengal rose to 18 on July 9.
After 12 persons died during polling on July 8, six more deaths came to light on July 9. Five were political workers while one was a police officer who suffered cardiac arrest. Three of the victims were supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress, killed in Cooch Behar, Uttar Dinajpur and Murshidabad districts. Twowere Congress supporters in Uttar Dinajpur.
Repolling in 600 booths where voting had to be suspended due to violence will be held on July 10. Murshidabad district, which has emerged as the epicentre of violence, will see repoll in 175 booths.
According to the West Bengal State Election Commission, 66.28% of voters exercised their franchise in the three-tier panchayat elections on Saturday. About 36 people have lost their lives since the announcement of the panchayat elections on June 8. Of the 18 victims of election-day violence, 10 were Trinamool supporters, four were from the Congress and two each from the BJP and Communist Party of India (Marxist). Eighteen more had died between June 8 and July 7.
Governor C.V. Ananda Bose, who had visited a number of violence-hit areas on the day of polling and also during the run up to the panchayat polls, left for Delhi on Sunday. Sources at Raj Bhavan said that the Governor’s visit to Delhi was sudden and unscheduled.When asked by journalists on Saturday whetherhe would submit a report to the Centre, Dr. Bose said, “I will do whatever a Governor is expected to do.” The Governor is likely to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his Delhi visit.
Meanwhile, a senior official of the Border Security Force (BSF) said the WBSEC hadnot provided any details of sensitive booths to the Central forces during the polling on Saturday. S.S. Guleria,DIG BSF, said that in places where Central forces have been deployed there have been no reportsof violence and the elections have been peaceful.
All the 822 companies of Central forces that had to be deployed as per the directions of the Calcutta High Court could not reach the State on the day of polling. Only 649 companies reached the State on Saturday and their deployment was also not seen outside polling booths in the State.
Citing theabsence of Central forces during polling, StateCongress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Sunday alleged it was a conspiracy hatched by the BJP leadership at the Centre and Trinamool leadershipin West Bengal. “The Centredeliberately delayed sending the full volume of Central forces, requisitioned by the WBSEC to secure advantage in favour of the Trinamool,” Mr. Chowdhury said.
The Trinamool leadership struck to its stand and Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said that the violence during panchayat elections was instigated by Opposition parties. Ms. Bhattacharya said that the Governor “behaved like a BJP spokesperson”.
Meanwhile, tensions continued to be high on Sunday as protests erupted at various parts of the State over alleged incidents of electoral malpractices and polling-day violence.
At Harishchandrapur in Malda, State Minister and Trinamool leaderTajmul Hossain’s vehicle was vandalised. Police vehicles were attacked in differentpartsof the State including at Chakulia in Uttar Dinjapurand Murshidabad. Violence was reported from parts of Murshidabad district including at Salar and Shamshergunj. BJP supporters held road blockades at Nandakumar in Purba Medinipur wherethe police resorted to baton-charge to disperse the crowd. Congress supporters led by party MP Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury organised road blockades in Malda district.
Counting of votes will be held on Tuesday. Elections for 63,239 seats at the grampanchayats, 9,730 panchayatsamiti seats and 928 zilla parishad seats were held on July 8. About 2.06 lakh candidates, which includes71, 938 candidates of the Trinamool, 46,404 of the BJP and 42, 910 of the CPI(M) are in poll fray for the three-tier elections.