On Saturday, July 8, the state of West Bengal saw another round of violence amidst the panchayat polls taking place in the state. The bloodshed was so large scale that 33 people lost their lives, with even crude bombs exploding, and ballot boxes being stolen and burnt. In the meanwhile, all the political parties have condemned the violence, but have levelled allegations of the same on their competitors.
The centres of violence were Murshidabad, Nadia, Cooch Behar, pockets of South 24 Parganas, and Nandigram. The polling began at 7 am in 73,887 seats in the rural areas of the state with 5.67 crore people deciding the fate of around 2.06 lakh candidates. Till 3 pm, 50.52 per cent voter turnout was recorded, officials said.
As the day went by, political parties made accusations and counter-accusations, blaming each other for the violence. TMC’s senior minister, Sashi Panja, said, ‘Shocking incidents are being reported since last night. BJP, CPI(M) and Congress have colluded.’ She also raised questions on the role of the central forces.
On the other hand, demanding President’s rule in the state of West Bengal, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, said, ‘A free and fair election under the state administration is a mirage. It is only possible only if elections are held under President’s Rule or Article 355.’ The TMC however claimed, ‘If the party was behind the violence, why would our own workers be targeted and killed? The Opposition has conceded defeat and is now attempting to shape the narrative around how violence affected the election.’
Meanwhile, Congress leader, Kaustav Bagchi, made a representation to the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, seeking an urgent hearing of a plea seeking that Saturday’s panchayat elections in West Bengal be declared null and void on account of violence and killings.
In the face of the rampant violence, Governor CV Ananda Bose, visited different places in the district of North 24 Parganas, and met the people who were injured in the violence. Bose told reporters, ‘People requested me to stop my motorcade on the way. There were a lot of tales to tell, they told me about murders happening around them, goons not allowing them to go to polling booths, and also about presiding officers not listening to them. These are stray cases but even one incident of bloodshed should cause concern to all of us.’
Amidst all the bloodshed and intimidation, protests were also held, demanding the deployment of central forces. Questioning the State Election Commission on the reluctance on deploying central forces, BJP State President, Sukanta Majumdar, said, ‘On the one hand, the SEC is reluctant to deploy the central forces. On the other hand, civil volunteers are deployed for election duty. This clearly shows that the state government and SEC have hoodwinked the courts. Is SEC silently facilitating the booth capturing by TMC goons?’
A little while ago, two children were also injured in a blast in South 24 Parganas, after they picked a crude bomb up, from the roadside, mistaking it to be a ball. The children were then admitted to a hospital.