KOLKATA: At least 14 people have died and scores were injured in panchayat election violence in West Bengal on Monday that has prompted the Union Home ministry to seek a report from the state government. Some 72.5 per cent votes were polled across the state till the end of polling at 5 pm.
Of the 14 dead, 5 were CPM supporters, 4 were TMC workers, 2 BJP and 2 independent candidate supporters and one was a voter.
The deaths were reported from eight of the 20 districts that went to an election on Monday. Reports of rigging and vandalisation of ballot boxes were reported from several districts.
Even before the commencement of election, CPM worker Debu Das and his wife Usha Das were burnt to death allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers after being locked inside their house at Kaccharibari in Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas in the wee hours of Monday. Though police claimed that the fire was caused by short circuit, State Election Commission has sought a report from the additional director general of police (law and order) Anuj Sharma.
CPM workers Apu Manna and Jogeshwar Ghosh were allegedly killed by TMC workers in Nandigram II block in Purba Medinipur district when they opposed booth capturing, sources revealed.
TMC worker Arif Ali Gazi was shot dead allegedly by SUCI (C) workers in South 24 Parganas' Kultali whereas CPM worker Toyabur Gayen was killed in North 24 Parganas' Amdanga. Independent candidate supporter Sanjit Pramanik of Santipur in Nadia district died of bullet injuries.
On the other hand, TMC worker Mahiuddin Mahalat of Tapan in Uttar Dinajpur district, BJP worker Tapan Mondal of Murshidabad's Beldanga and TMC supporter Bhola Dafadar of Nakashipara in Nadia district died in the violence.
Independent candidate supporter Shaheen Sheikh of Nowda in Murshidabad district succumbed to bullet injuries while six others were grievously injured. One TMC worker was killed in Nadia's Betai and one BJP worker died in Dakshin Dinajpur district in clashes between ruling and opposition parties. The SEC has confirmed all the deaths.
Voter Dulal Kumar Bhowmik (76) fell ill and died in the queue at a polling booth in Gopalpur in Coochbehar district. While BJP claimed that he fell ill after being thrashed by TMC men, the ruling party refuted the allegations.
Meanwhile, North Bengal development minister 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. Nevertheless, SEC has sought a report on the incident.
While 20 persons were injured in clashes in Coochbehar, 12 were injured in clashes in Raiganj and Kaliganj areas of Uttar Dinajpur district. BJP candidate Raju Biswas was stabbed with a knife in Bilkanda near Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district. He has been hospitalised.
Meanwhile, 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, locals 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 of the 100 people 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.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purakayasta said that there were some 'sporadic incidents'. "This year's panchayat election saw far lesser incidents of violence than previous
elections," he said.
On the other hand, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh met Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi after the conclusion of the vote and said that the Governor said that he will send a report to the central government on the poll violence.
Some 5 crore West Bengal residents sealed the fate of 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.
Sincethe declaration of the 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 the election was finally decided at the court after a long legal battle between the ruling party and the Opposition.