Clashes mar Bengal rural poll nominations; Opposition considers moving court
A man was shot dead and several were injured in clashes across West Bengal on Monday during the last day of submission of nomination papers for the panchayat elections. Amid the violence, there was no indication from the state election commission about the poll dates.
The BJP, CPI(M), and the Congress accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of continuing to unleash violence to deter the opposition from fielding candidates. The opposition described Monday’s violence as the most widespread since nominations started on April 2.
Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee rubbished the allegations. “Five of our workers have been killed. No one is speaking about that. We are being one-sidedly blamed for the violence,” Chatterjee, the state education minister, added.
Police identified the latest victim of violence as Dildar Khan and said he was in his thirties. Police are yet to ascertain who fired the bullets that killed him at Suri in Birbhum district. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool jostled to claim Khan was their party worker.
Around 2.30 pm, Dildar Khan’s father, Tahid Khan, told the media that his son was a BJP worker and Trinamool supporters killed him. “It happened before my eyes. The pradhan (panchayat pradhan) said ‘shoot Dildar’,” he said.
Barely 90 minutes later, Tahid Khan addressed a press conference with Trinamool’s Birbhum unit president Anubrata Mondal by his side. “He was a Trinamool supporter. BJP supporters killed him,” said Tahid Khan.
Through the day, local television channels beamed footage of people, with their faces covered, roaming around with firearms in several districts.
“The situation in Bengal is fast approaching a state where we will be forced to demand imposition of President’s rule. We have already lost five workers to Trinamool’s bullets in the run-up to the nomination process,” said BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh.
Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJP national general secretary and the party’s in-charge of Bengal, said, “We have never seen a situation where people who are being beaten up are arrested.”
Union minister of state, heavy industries, Babul Supriyo alleged that Trinamool supporters blocked his way when he was accompanying candidates to file nomination in West Burdwan district.
CPI(M) state secretary Surya Kanta Mishra said, “The police, the administration and the ruling party, in coordination, have unleashed terror that has left no district unaffected.”
CPI(M) central committee member Rabin Deb said the party would watch what the state election commission does. “Whether we file a petition in court will depend on the poll panel’s decision,” Deb added.
CPI(M) leader Bikash Bhattacharya said they could even seek removal of the state election commissioner.
The rural election process was stalled earlier this month after opposition parties went to court, alleging large-scale violence during the nomination process. The state election commission on Saturday extended the nomination process by a day following Calcutta high court’s directions to ensure peace around the polling exercise.
At the time of the copy being published, the poll body was collecting reports from the district magistrates and superintendents of police of the 20 districts where the rural polls will be held.
No poll body official was willing to go on record over the poll dates.
The polls were initially scheduled for May 1, 3 and 5. The opposition parties have alleged that the Trinamool is pressuring the election commissioner to hold the polls on a single day. The Trinamool’s stance before the commissioner is it does not want polls at the height of summer, during rains or during Ramzan.