Kolkata, May 14: Less than few hours after polling began for West Bengal panchayat election 2018 on Monday, the State Election Commission received complaints of violence from several districts. Sporadic violence and clashes between the workers of the ruling TMC and the opposition CPM. Incidents of booth capturing at several polling booths marred voting in the initial hours. As many as 20 people were injured in fresh clashes which broke out between two groups here in Cooch Behar. A crude bomb explosion in Amdanga’s Sadhanpur in North 24 Parganas left at least 20 people injured. A TMC worker named Arif Gazi was shot dead in Kultali area of South 24 Parganas district.
As many as 38,529 seats across the state of West Bengal are up for the contest. Reports of violence have been received from North 24 Parganas, Burdwan, Coochbehar and South 24 Parganas districts, the SEC said. In South 24 Parnagas’ Bhangar the ‘Jomi, Jibika, Bastutantra O Poribesh Raksha Committee’ accused armed miscreants of Trinamool Congress of kidnapping their Panchayat Samiti candidate Sariful Mullick and terrorising the voters. The committee also accused the police of not taking action against the miscreants involved in casting false votes and backing the men of TMC leader Arabul Islam.
In Coochbehar district, West Bengal Development minister Rabindranath Ghosh allegedly slapped a BJP supporter Sujit Kumar Das outside at booth no 8/12 in the presence of police. In North 24 Parganas, a CPM worker and his wife were charred to death after their house was torched last night. CPM alleged that TMC workers were behind the attack. Incidents of violence took place in East Midnapore district’s Panskura and West Midnapore district’s Keshpur where gun toting miscreants gathered outside the polling stations and beat up the voters.
The dates of state rural polls were initially declared on May 1, 3 and 5 but as the nomination process started in April, all the opposition parties accused the Trinamool of indulging in strongarm tactics to prevent them from filing nominations. The matter reached the Calcutta High Court, that subsequently stayed the polling process and asked the SEC to extend nomination deadline and announce fresh election schedule. More bitter legal battles followed, at the end of which the SEC declared May 14 as the new polling date.
Statistics reveal that of the total 58,692 seats in the three tiers of rural local bodies, 20,076 seats or 34.2 per cent have already been decided uncontested, with the Trinamool bagging a whopping proportion of these seats. These seats include 16,814 of the total 48,650 in gram panchayats, 3,059 of the total 9,217 in panchayat samitis and 203 of the total 825 in zila parishads. The Supreme Court has now asked the SEC not to issue winning certificates in case of the uncontested seats.
The SEC has, on the other hand, said all arrangements had been made for providing security for the polls. Around 71,500 armed personnel were on duty, manning every booth. Armed forces have also arrived from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh to strengthen security arrangements. (With agency inputs)