Bengal: One shot dead as violence casts pall on civic polls

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Apr 25, 2015 14:53 IST

A man was shot dead, another sustained bullet injuries and a former minister alleged abuse as violence early on Saturday cast a pall on elections to 91 civic bodies across West Bengal.

Bullets and bombs flew in abundance in the last pan-Bengal polling exercise before the all-important assembly elections next year, which is being viewed as a litmus test of chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the wake of the Saradha chit fund scam that has rocked the state.

Allegations of violence against the ruling Trinamool Congress rushed in with daybreak, even before the polling process for the second and last phase of civic elections began at 7am.

Opposition accused the ruling Trinamool of unleashing widespread violence and the spotlight was again on alleged police inaction, in a grim reminder of the first phase of elections on April 18, when the crucial Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) went out to vote.

In ward 14 of Katwa municipality (Burdwan district), a person, allegedly a Trinamool worker, was shot dead in front of a booth. Reports said the needle of suspicion was on Congress workers.

Later in the day, a man was shot in his leg in Titagarh (North 24-Parganas).

CPI(M) zonal committee member Gobinda Pal alleged that three bullets were fired at him in front of a school in North Dumdum municipality (North 24-Parganas).

"It's a well calculated murder of democracy," said Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra. "The people of the state has to decide what will prevail in Bengal: rule of the law or rule of Mamata Banerjee."

BJP's Siddharth Nath Singh said, "Elections are a dance of democracy, but in West Bengal it has become dance of violence."

In four wards of Sonamukhi municipality in Bankura district, outsiders armed with crude bombs -- 'peto' in local lingo -- and firearms began roaming around the area since dawn. Residents put up a resistance and handed over three of the criminals to police.

In areas such as Halisahar and Kamarhati in North 24-Parganas district, the CPI(M) complained that their candidates and polling agents were thrashed by the ruling party supporters, and not allowed to enter booths.

In Basirhat and North Dumdum (both in North 24-Parganas district), CPI(M) leaders alleged Trinamool supporters shooed away their candidates and agents from booths.

Opposition leaders have alleged that these polls will witness a large-scale muscle flexing by the ruling Trinamool. There were numerous allegations by the Opposition during the KMC polls, with state election commissioner SR Upadhyay too admitting that he was let down by poll observers, who informed him on phone that booths were captured, but later omitted these mentions from their written reports.

Only a day before the polls, 34 companies of central paramilitary forces were sent to Bengal, but the Opposition argued that their mere presence would help little as deployment was in the hands of the local administration.

Another argument was the forces were sent too late in the day for effective deployment and co-ordination.

For the ruling party, stakes are high since chief minister Banerjee is eager to demonstrate that despite the groundswell of opinion in a large section of the urban society after the Saradha scam, her political ground hasn't eroded.

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