Ahead of Phase 5 polling, Bengal slugfest heats up
- Of the 45 seats going to the polls in the fifth phase on Saturday — the largest of the eight rounds — 21 are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met the families of people who died in paramilitary firing in north Bengal last week and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of bias against Dalits as campaigning for the crucial fifth phase of elections in West Bengal ended on Wednesday.
Banerjee called for peace and promised a thorough probe into the killings after the elections. “I met all five families, including that of Anand Burman...,” she said, referring to an 18-year-old first-time voter who was shot dead last Saturday, hours before four other men were shot by central forces, allegedly in self defence. She said the guilty will not be spared and added that all victims were Rajbangshi. “I condemn the killing. The people will give a befitting reply in the coming days,” she said.
The Koch-Rajbanshi community is the largest scheduled caste group in the state and can influence elections in around 20 assembly seats.
Of the 45 seats going to the polls in the fifth phase on Saturday — the largest of the eight rounds — 21 are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).
The CM said a martyrs’ column will be built in memory of the five who lost their lives.
Four people were killed in Cooch Behar’s Sitalkuchi as central forces opened fire amid polling for the fourth phase allegedly after coming under attack from locals.
Following the violence, Election Commission put in place restrictions, extending the silent period from 48 hours to 72 hours for the fifth phase, and barring the entry of politicians in the district for three days, to prevent any disturbances.
The killings triggered a political storm, with Banerjee calling it a “genocide” while Union home minister Amit Shah saying that Banerjee’s “provocative speeches” triggered the violence and alleging that she was engaging in appeasement politics.
On Wednesday, BJP national president JP Nadda said TMC exposed its “anti-Dalit” face and the party should be cast out in the ongoing elections.
“While we salute Ambedkar, I also feel the anti-Dalit feelings by Mamata didi. This is unfortunate even after several years of independence. Just now, a TMC leader used a word for our Dalit brothers. I cannot use the word at this stage. She said that Dalits always keep asking,” said Nadda at a public gathering in Mangalkot. “I feel sad that Mamata di, who has been the Chief Minister for 10 years, has not spoken a word to condemn this. This is TMC’s anti-Dalit face that we should understand,” he added. He was referring to a controversy surrounding TMC leader Sujata Mondal Khan’s alleged derogatory comments about Dalit people last week.