Amid Fear Of Violence, Counting Of Votes For Bengal Panchayat Polls Today
Hundreds of poll officers blocked a road at Raiganj town after news spread that a poll officer at Itahar block who went missing on Monday in the middle of voting had died, his body found just off some rail tracks near his home in Rajganj.
Police force was rushed to Gudar village where alleged Trinamool supporters arrived with guns. (File)
Kolkata: On Monday, elections were held in over 45,000 booths in West Bengal and at least 20 people died in panchayat poll related violence. On Wednesday, repolls were held in only 572 booths. One person is reported dead in North Dinajpur district in a political clash but not linked to repolls. But the numerous incidents of violence, terror tactics and manhandling of officers has shocked the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had condemned the poll day violence as a "murder of democracy." The ruling Trinamool party did hit back - it said PM Modi's comments were his reaction to the BJP's defeat in Karnataka.
Here is a list of repoll-related incidents across West Bengal on Wednesday:
Most shocking, perhaps, was the heckling and manhandling of a junior administrative office at Raiganj in North Dinajpur district. Hundreds of poll officers blocked a road at Raiganj town after news spread that a poll officer at Itahar block who went missing on Monday in the middle of voting had died, his body found just off some rail tracks near his home in Rajganj.
In Malda, at a booth in Ratua, a group of armed men, allegedly of Trinamool, marched in, picked up the ballot boxes and walked out. With them were men with rifles on their shoulders. After some time, the Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) said the ballot boxes had been recovered and voting recommenced. But reports from the ground said, yes, ballot boxes had been recovered and were back at the booth. But poll officers were missing. They fled when the armed men stormed the booth.
In Hembagh in North Dinajpur district, there were reports of supporters of the Forward Bloc and an independent candidate clashing with bombs and bullets. A supporter of the independent candidate was killed. There was no repoll there, so not a case of repoll related violence. But poll-related violence.
Poll booth 82 at Balurghat in South Dinajpur district was found abandoned with a bunch of ballot paper lying around, stamped and unstamped. But not a voter, poll officer or policeman was in sight.
In Howrah district, in Gudar village Booth 50 Uluberia block 1, a number of alleged Trinamool supporters arrived armed with guns and bombs but voters and villagers resisted and chased them out. A huge police force was rushed there.
At Basanti in the Sunderbans in South 24 Parganas, voting was slow in a booth that had seen violence on Monday. Only 57 votes were cast till 10:30 am. Police on duty in the area also came upon a stash of arms and some homespun "bulletproof" jackets like the ones police wear at Panikhali area. Among the recoveries was a knuckle duster as well.
At Bhaluka in North 24 Parganas, police detained outsiders loitering around the poll booths and unable to explain their presence. The outsiders had come on motorbikes which were also seized.
The State Election Commission has ordered that no victory rallies will be allowed by political parties till all results are announced. Counting will be held across the state at multiple centres. Prohibitory orders are imposed in a 200 metre radius around each centre.
Around five crore people cast their vote to choose from over 1.15 lakh candidates for representatives to 38,529 seats. The actual number of panchayat seats is 58,692. But a record 34 per cent seats were won unopposed by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
This panchayat poll is the last major poll in Bengal before 2019 and results will show which way the wind may blow. The Trinamool is the superpower in the state but the BJP's poll percentage has been steadily rising - from about 3 per cent in the 2013 rural polls to above 20 per cent in recent bypolls.