Voting for violence-hit panchayat polls in West Bengal ended yesterday leaving at least 16 people dead in seven districts. The total number of people who lost their lives in this year’s panchayat elections reached 35, including 19 deaths recorded since the notification of the election date on June 8. Criticizing the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government over widespread violence, BJP leader and Union minister Nishith Pram.k said the single-phase polls were not a festival of democracy but a festival of death.
Of the 16 people who died on Saturday, nine were from TMC, three from Congress and two each from BJP and CPM. Murshidabad, Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur and Malda accounted for 13 of the 16 deaths on Saturday. Five people lost their lives in Murshidabad alone, while three, four and one person died in Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur and Malda respectively. One death each was recorded in three districts of South Bengal, Nadia, East Burdwan and South 24 Parganas. In addition, 200 people belonging to different political parties were injured in the violent incidents in Murshidabad on Saturday.
Abdullah, the booth agent of an independent candidate, was killed in Peergacha in North 24 Parganas district. The incident took place during a protest by villagers who were demanding the arrest of the accused. The villagers allege that TMC candidate Munna Bibi’s husband is responsible for the murder. Similarly, a 52-year-old TMC worker named Sateshuddin Shaikh was murdered in Khargram of Murshidabad.
While the BJP shared several videos on Twitter alleging violence by TMC goons, the ruling party also claimed attacks on its workers and cited the failure of central forces to contain the violence.
Polling stations and ballot boxes were also vandalized at several booths. A miscreant fled from a polling station in Mahdipur area of Malda with a ballot box. There is an allegation of vandalism and burning of ballot papers at Baravita Primary School in Sitai, Coochbehar. The second incident took place at Balutola in Malda’s Gopalpur panchayat, where Congress and TMC workers clashed and explosives were hurled. Additionally, in Kalamati area of Bamanhat II gram panchayat of Dinhata, the house of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate was allegedly attacked by workers affiliated to the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The injured persons are currently undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Coochbehar.
There are 3,341 gram panchayats in Bengal and 58,594 panchayat election centers were set up for the elections. Votes were cast for 63,239 gram panchayat seats, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats and 928 zilla parishad level seats. The counting of votes will take place on July 11.