Election violence in Bengal leaves 12 dead and raises suspicions of use of force

Bengal's rural polls ended violently on Saturday, leaving 12 people dead, ballot boxes vandalized, and bombs thrown at rivals in several villages. This year's bloodied election closely followed the 2018 panchayat poll violence pattern, with over 40 killed during the election process. The election, seen as a semi-final for the 2024 parliamentary elections, also witnessed scenes of ballot boxes being stolen and burnt, and public anger being vented against political workers. 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 5 pm, 66.28 per cent voter turnout was recorded. State Election Commissioner Rajiva Sinha promised to look into complaints of vote tampering and take a decision on possible re-polling after receiving reports from observers and returning officers. 

The most number of complaints on incidents of violence during the day's polling came from four districts, and a decision on re-polling would be taken on Sunday when observers and returning officers scrutinize and review the polling process. All parties in West Bengal levelled allegations against each other for the violence that claimed the lives of 12 people, even as the BJP called for President's Rule to be imposed in the state.

The TMC and Congress have been involved in violent clashes in various districts of West Bengal, resulting in the deaths of several workers. BJP polling agent Madhab Biswas was allegedly killed by ruling party workers in Falimari gram panchayat in Cooch Behar district, while Ganesh Sarkar, a TMC booth committee member, was killed in an attack by the BJP. Overnight violence also occurred in Murshidabad district, with another TMC worker killed in Khargram. 

Congress worker Yasmin Sk. was also killed in Murshidabad's Rejinagar police station area. At least 11 others, mostly TMC supporters, were also injured in the clash. In some areas, ballot boxes were vandalized and ballot papers were set on fire, allegedly due to false voting. Protests were held in various areas, demanding the deployment of central forces. At least 600 companies of central forces have been deployed for the elections, along with around 70,000 state police.


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