Clashes between TMC, Oppn supporters over panchayat polls rock Bengal
The run up to the panchayat elections in Bengal is turning out be a bloody one with the opposition parties accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress of trying to prevent their candidates from filing nominations.india Updated: Apr 10, 2018 15:08 IST
Clashes between supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and opposition parties over the filing of nominations for the panchayat polls rocked Bengal for the sixth straight day on Saturday, with the opposition accusing the TMC of using strong arm tactics.
Even as opposition parties accused the police of being silent spectators, additional director general of police (ADGP) Anuj Sharma announced at the state secretariat that more forces were being sent to Birbhum, North 24 Parganas and North Dinajpur districts. The additional forces will be led by three senior IPS officers. “The police have so far shown restraint but now we will crack down,” Sharma said.
On Friday evening, veteran CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharya was injured, allegedly by ruling party supporters, when they were leading processions of party candidates going to file their nomination. A day earlier on Thursday another Marxist leader and seven-time Lok Sabha MP Ramchandra Dom was attacked.
On Saturday, the opposition alleged that intimidation and strong arm tactics were visible in Kolkata also.They claimed that a number of young men stood at the gate of the South 24 Parganas district administrative building in Alipore, the city’s most upscale neighbourhood and stopped even media persons from taking photographs. But they did not lodge a complaint with the police..
The TMC has brushed aside the opposition’s allegation of a reign of terror by the TMC cadres in connivance with the police.
“The distance between the Alipore administrative building and the state secretariat is around 3km. If this kind of intimidation is taking place in the heart of Kolkata, we can conclude that either the government has lost control on law and order, or, it is directing the violence from the secretariat. In any case, administrative control seems to have been leased out to goons,” alleged Rahul Sinha, BJP national secretary and former state president.
Monday is the last day for filing of nominations. In a petition in the Supreme Court, the Bharatiya Janata Party has appealed for extending the nomination process to enable their candidates and those of other opposition parties to contest in the polls.
On Saturday a series of incidents were reported from different districts across the state.
Several persons were injured in Birbhum district when BJP and Trinamool Congress supporters clashed in Mohammad Bazar area. Crude bombs were hurled at a procession taken out by BJP supporters some of whom were carrying sticks, spears, bows and arrows.
Bengal police deputy chief Anuj Sharma claimed that on Saturday trouble makers infiltrated into Bengal from neighbouring Jharkhand.
“We have found that people from neighbouring Jharkhand entered Birbhum district through the border at Dumka and created trouble,” Sharma said at Nabanna.
When asked about the affiliation of these people, Sharma did not name any party but showed reporters a video in his phone. In the video, people wielding weapons were also carrying BJP flags.
In the industrial town of Durgapur in West Burdwan district, BJP district president Laxman Ghorai and four others were injured in a clash between the party workers and those of Trinamool Congress.
Left candidates had to return without filing nomination when a mob of masked men armed with sticks manhandled them outside the office of the police superintendent of Bankura.
“The candidates were going to file their nomination. Suddenly hundreds of people carrying sticks and weapons blocked out path, pushed us around. They were shouting slogans like ‘Mamata Banerjee jug jug jio’ and ‘Jai Siya Ram’. It was clear that the police were under their control and not the other way round,” alleged Sujan Chakravarty, CPI(M) MLA.
But Mamata Banerjee’s government quickly washed its hands of the violence.
“Section 144 of CrPC is enforced where nomination is filed. Why should Sujan Chakravarty go there in a procession? They are staging a drama,” remarked urban development minister Bobby Hakim. “Calcutta high court has said that district police supers would ensure nominations.”
The Trinamool Congress also rubbished claims of the opposition that the party was short-circuiting the election process.
“We have not reached such a sorry state of affairs that we will obstruct other parties from filing nomination,” claimed Arup Khan, district Trinamool president, refuting Chakraborty’s allegation.
In Kandi, Murshidabad, TMC supporters obstructed a procession led by state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. Congress workers retaliated by staging a demonstration and blocking roads in front of Kandi police station.
“It is clear that if one has to file nomination one has to come here with an armed force. Ruling party workers are not allowing opposition candidates to go near the offices to file papers. Then there is police to block your way. Today our workers were beaten up. They did not thrash me, perhaps because I am the local MP,” Chowdhury alleged.
“I came here with party workers, thinking after the Calcutta high court interim order on Friday that filing of nomination will be allowed,” added Chowdhury.
In East Burdwan, rival supporters used stones, tube lights and even benches in a face-off between Trinamool and CPI(M) workers outside the district magistrate’s office.
In Delhi, CPI(M) leaders Hannan Mollah and Brinda Karat led a small demonstration outside Banga Bhavan on Hailey Road to protest against the intimidation and violence in Bengal to prevent nomination.
Opposition leaders alleged that the ruling party has devised the new strategy of ‘rigging’ the nomination process instead of rigging elections.
In Kolkata, Congress workers began an agitation in front of the State Election Commission office. Police arrested a busload of agitators from the spot. On Friday Left leaders agitated at the same spot from 2 pm to 10 pm.
“One election does not end a political career. The chief minister must remember that this horrible situation will return to haunt her someday,” remarked Chowdhury.
State election commissioner A K Singh who convened a meeting of election observers on Saturday, advised them to work neutrally.
“I have told the observers that if there is violence bring it to our notice,” Singh said.