At least 10 people have been killed along with booths being vandalized in West Bengal amidst the polling for the Panchayat Elections today. Bengal has always been indulged in political violence that instigates after the announcement of elections and reaches its peak on the voting day. This year, Panchayat elections have become increasingly vulnerable to violence because of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024.
Since the announcement of elections on June 8, widespread violence has been reported across West Bengal. More than 20 people, including a teenager have been died in different incidents while more than dozen remain injured. Different areas such as Malda and Murshidabad have witnessed violence resulting in the deaths of six Trinamool Congress workers. Additionally, a BJP polling agent in Cooch Behar was also killed today. The ongoing violence during the polling has claimed the lives of one worker from CPI, one from ISF, and one from Congress..
A polling booth was vandalized and the ballot papers were set on fire in Cooch Behar. In another incident, the presiding officer was beaten and the ballot box was filled with water. Exercising absolute anarchy during the electoral process, a group of assailants, alleged to be TMC workers, barged into the house of an independent candidate. They beat the family with guns and shot his daughter, Chandana Singh on the forehead. Injured Chandan has been shifted to the Kolkata Medical College.
In North 24 Parganas, a supporter of another independent candidate was brutally beaten and his office was vandalized by the TMC workers on Friday. The person is in the hospital in critical condition. This sparked a brawl between the Police, Central Forces and the villagers.
The most disturbing report came from South 24 Parganas where two children succumbed to injuries after they picked up a live bomb by the road. The children mistook the crude bomb to be a ball which exploded when they touched it.
Start of the blame game
Yesterday, the Governor of Bengal CV Ananda Bose accused the State Election Commissioner of failing the people of Bengal. While the polling and violence are occurring simultaneously, the blame game has begun started by the leaders of various parties. Opposition parties including Congress, BJP among others have blamed Mamta Banerjee led TMC of sabotaging the electoral process. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary has accused police administration of working as TMC agents. He said, “The police administration in Bengal is in cahoots with the ruling dispensation only to retain their hold on panchayat bodies.” BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari also targeted the alleged nexus of Police and TMC. He said, “This is not vote but loot…This is the collusion of TMC goons and police and that is why so many murders are happening.” On the other hand, TMC leaders have accused central forces of failing to protect the citizens.
It is worth mentioning here that various reports claim that central forces were not even deployed on many polling booths across West Bengal. SEC Rajiv Sinha has sought reports of the deployment of forces from the District Magistrates. About 60,000 central forces were sent to Bengal for the Panchayat Elections. As of now, BJP has demanded the President’s rule in the state while Congress has requested High Court to declare Panchayat Elections as null and void.