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WB panchayat polls: Fresh clashes erupt over filing of nominations by candidates

Jun 14, 2023 07:13 PM IST

Fresh clashes broke out between workers of the ruling TMC and the Indian Secular Front at Bhangore in South 24 Parganas, near Kolkata

Fresh clashes erupted at multiple places in West Bengal over the filing of nominations by candidates of political parties in the run up to the crucial panchayat elections in the eastern state.

West Bengal police conduct route march ahead of the state panchayat poll in Nadia on Wednesday. (PTI)

Last week, the state poll panel announced that the three-tier rural polls would be held in one phase on July 8. The process for filing nominations kicked off the next day.

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The Opposition parties, however, have been alleging over the past five days that their candidates were not being allowed to reach the offices of the block divisional officer (BDO) and sub-divisional officer (SDO) to file nominations. Thursday is the last day of filing nominations.

“The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is looting in more than 50 blocks. We won’t allow this election to be a rerun of 2013 and 2018 polls,” said Suvendu Adhikari, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator and leader of the Opposition in the state assembly.

West Bengal panchayat elections have been marred by violence in the past. While 39 people died in 2013 poll violence, at least 21 persons died in 2018. In the last rural polls, the TMC bagged around 90% of the seats, of which 34% were uncontested.

While clashes have been reported from multiple places across the state over the past few days, one Congress worker was shot dead on Friday.

On Wednesday, fresh clashes broke out between workers of the ruling TMC and the Indian Secular Front at Bhangore in South 24 Parganas, near Kolkata.

Men, covering their faces with clothes and carrying bamboo sticks, rods and sharp weapons, could be seen patrolling the roads at Bhangore. Crude bombs were hurled and police vehicles were damaged. Media persons were also attacked. Senior IPS officers including additional director general (ADG) (South Bengal), SN Gupta rushed to the spot.

“The situation is under control. Investigation is going on and raids are being carried out,” said an IPS officer, who did not wish to be named.

While TMC workers alleged that they were attacked by ISF workers, the latter claimed that they were attacked first.

“If you can show one video of ISF workers attacking somebody I would take full responsibility. They (TMC) brought in outsiders to unleash terror. Crude bombs were hurled so that our candidates do not go out to file nominations. When our men braved all odds, they were stopped by the police from reaching the BDO’s office,” Nawsad Siddique, ISF leader, told the media.

“I don’t know which men you are talking about. TMC workers were not carrying any arms. They were just carrying flags. No one was attacked. But if someone attacks us, we have the right to defend,” said Shahjahan Mollah, TMC leader in South 24 Parganas.

At Canning in South 24 Parganas, a clash broke out allegedly between two factions of the ruling TMC. Violence was also reported from Amodpur in Birbhum, while two bags full of crude bombs were recovered from Indas in Bankura district.

Later in the day, BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar and party legislator Suvendu Adhikari reached the state poll panel with some party candidates, who the allegedly failed to file their nominations.

“We would move the Calcutta high court on Thursday. The state election commission is behaving in a biased manner. None of the orders of the Calcutta high court are being carried out,” said Majumdar.

The Calcutta high court on Tuesday ordered deployment of central paramilitary forces in ‘sensitive’ districts as well as other areas witnessing law and order problems to ensure free and fair panchayat polls.

“Let’s not forget that the BJP filed a whopping 20,516 nominations (Gram Panchayat: 17,869; Panchayat Samiti: 2511; Zilla Parishad: 136) as on June 12, 2023. So much for not being able to file nominations!” Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson tweeted.

“Instead of ensuring a level playing field for all candidates and addressing people’s genuine concerns, Suvendu Adhikari, well aware of the BJP’s poor prospects in the Panchayat elections, has resorted to spreading misinformation and rumour mongering. His baseless accusations about law and order in West Bengal are nothing but a desperate attempt to discredit the state government. It’s clear that Mr. Adhikari is afraid of facing the truth – people’s unanimous rejection of his party’s divisive politics,” he added.

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