KOLKATA: Violence marred panchayat elections in West Bengal where 26 per cent voting was recorded till 11 am while at least five people lost their lives and scores were injured in political violence in different parts of the state till Monday noon.
A CPM worker and his wife were burnt to death after being locked inside their house at Kaccharibari area in North 24 Parganas in the wee hours of Monday while one person was killed and four others were injured in clashes between BJP and Trinamool Congress workers in Paschim Burdwan's Panagarh.
The CPM workers Debu Das and Usha Das were allegedly burnt by TMC workers while they were asleep. Their bodies were sent for post-mortem.
A TMC worker Arif Ali Gazi was shot dead allegedly by SUCI (C) workers in South 24 Parganas' Kultali. A CPM worker was also killed in North 24 Parganas' Panchpota.
Two persons received bullet injuries and 12 others were injured in clashes in Raiganj and Kaliganj areas in Uttar Dinajpur district. The injured were admitted to Raiganj superspecialty hospital. A BJP candidate Raju Biswas was stabbed with a knife in Bilkanda near Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district. He has been hospitalised.
On the other hand, 20 people were injured in clashes between two political groups in Coochbehar district.
Meanwhile, North Bengal development department minister-in-charge Rabindra Nath Ghosh was caught slapping a BJP worker at a polling booth in Coochbehar district. He later justified his action by claiming that the BJP worker was attempting to steal the ballot box.
On the other hand, local residents took law into their own hands in at least two places. While locals beat up 9 'outsiders' in Bagda area of North 24 Parganas district, local residents torched 12 motorbikes of 'outsiders' in Santipur in Nadia district claiming that they had come to foment trouble.
Food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mullick claimed that BJP has brought over a 100 people from Bangladesh to create trouble in the bordering areas in North 24 Parganas district. "People nabbed some 9 people of the 100 and thrashed them in Bagda. BJP is attempting to create disturbances in the area by bringing in goons from Bangladesh," he said.
However, BJP claimed that the persons nabbed in Bagda were TMC workers sent by a local TMC leader in Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district.
Some five crore West Bengal residents will elect representatives to 31,836 gram panchayats, 622 zila parishads and 6,158 panchayat samitis on Monday. The results will be declared on May 17. The ruling party has already won 16,814 gram panchayats, 203 zila parishads and 3,059 panchayat samitis uncontested.
Since declaration of poll process from April, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has claimed that 14 TMC workers have been killed whereas BJP claimed that they have lost 52 of their workers to political violence within one month.
Besides 46,000 West Bengal Police personnel and 12,000 Kolkata Police personnel, some 1,500 police personnel from Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Assam are also manning the booths.
The date of election was finally decided at the court after a long legal battle between the ruling party and the Opposition.