Kolkata, May 14: In West Bengal panchayat polls held today, the total voter turnout was recorded to be 73 per cent at the end of polling at 5 pm. However, the state election commission predicted that the turnout percentage would increase as 4.5 lakh people were seen queued up across the state.
The voting for West Bengal Panchayat Elections 2018 was held across 20 districts between 7 am and 5 pm amid tight security today i.e. May 14. Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh were present in the state to reinforce security arrangements for the polls. Security forces also conducted route marches in various parts of the state as part of security arrangements.
In spite of tight security maintained by the state, huge clashes between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers were witnessed, where at least 12 people lost their lives. However, a written confirmation on the death toll is awaited. Over 50 people were injured after violence broke out in various parts of West Bengal during the polling.
Reportedly, three deaths were reported from Murshidabad. Two people lost their lives in East Midnapore’s Nandigram and two were killed from Nadia and North Dinajpur districts.
CPI-M’s North 24 Parganas leaders claimed that their party activist died in Amdanga after he was attacked with crude bombs. However, there is no police confirmation available on this at the moment, reported ANI. A Trinamool Congress worker Arif Ali Gazi was allegedly shot in the chest while he was coming out of a polling booth, who later died in a hospital.
“Election has turned into a commotion because no rules were followed. Police could not strengthen the security. That is why we have come here to speak to the Election Commission to find a solution,” Biman Bose, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader told a news agency ANI.
When the polling began at 7 am, reports of clashes, including booth capturing, vandalising of ballot boxes and rigging were reported from pockets of South and North 24 Parganas, North Dinajpur, Nadia, West Midnapore and Cooch Behar districts. Two cops were severely injured after being attacked by goons carrying guns.
In north Bengal’s Cooch Behar, Minister Rabindranath Ghosh was accused of slapping a Bharatiya Janata Party polling agent and forcing him out of the polling premises, following which the SEC sought a report from the district administration. The Minister, however, denied all allegations and accused the BJP agent of trying to run away with the ballot box.
Several attempts to rig the election process were also reported across the state as miscreants poured water into ballot boxes or set them on fire.
Notably, the polls were earlier scheduled between May 1 and May 7 but it was postponed to May 14, following violence-related incidents between Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadres.
According to the West Bengal State Election Commission, of the 48,650 seats in 3,358-gram panchayats, 16,814 were uncontested and of the 9,217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis, 3,059 were uncontested. In the 20 Zilla Parishads, 203 of the 825 seats were uncontested, the SEC said. The TMC has no opposition in 34 per cent of the seats. The results will be declared on Thursday, May 17.
(With inputs from ANI)