TMC virtually unopposed in zilla parishad, nominations for Bengal rural polls extended
West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress, accused by the opposition of strong-arm tactics in the run-up to elections to the state’s local adminsitrative bodies, appeared to have gained control of a zilla parishad on Monday, even before a single vote was cast.
It emerged that only Trinamool candidates had filed nominations in 41 out of 42 seats in the Birbhum zilla parishad as of 3pm on Monday, ostensibly the last day for the process. Later in the day, State Election Commission announced that the nomination process was being extended for 24 hours in view of complaints received from political parties and candidates that they were being stopped from filing nomination papers.
Elections to the three-tier local body structure — zilla parishads, panchayat samitis, and gram panchayats — are scheduled to be held on May 1, 3 and 5.
“Only one of our candidates could file nomination from the Rajnagar seat,” said Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Birbhum district president Ramkrishna Roy. In 14 out of 19 panchayat samitis in the district, not a single opposition candidate could file nomination, said Roy. District Congress president Sayed Jimmi also confirmed that opposition candidates were not allowed to file their nominations.
“There is a mosquito net in place to prevent mosquitoes from coming in,” commented Trinamool’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal. “If the opposition is not able to find a candidate, we cannot be held responsible… If CPI(M), Congress leaders telephone me, I shall ensure they can file nomination.”
On Monday afternoon, ruling party leaders started distributing sweets to party supporters.
At Goaltore in West Midnapore district, Bahadur Murmu, 54, a BJP supporter committed suicide allegedly after his wife Jamuna Murmu was threatened by Trinamool supporters who did not want her to file her nomination papers on Monday.
Jamuna Murmu, a resident of Keshia village in the Makli panchayat area, however remained undeterred. She filed her papers after the police sent her husband’s body for post-mortem examination. The area was once a hotbed of Maoist activities.
“Trinamool Congress supporters created pressure on the family. Bahadur and his wife were insulted in public. He could not take it,” alleged Samit Das, district BJP president.
Kaberi Chatterjee, local Trinamool leader, rubbished the charges. “When we are sure about our victory why should we create pressure on anyone? He committed suicide because of family problems and now the BJP is trying to give it a political colour.”
Superintendent of police, West Midnapore, Alok Rajoria said, “The police have registered a case on the basis of the complaint lodged by the wife of the deceased. We are carrying out an investigation.”
At Kandi, opposition parties did not file nominations in 29 of the 30 panchayat samiti seats . In Bharatpur panchayat samiti, the TMC was unopposed in 21 out of 21 seats and in Barwan , in 36 panchayat samiti seats without a contest. Kandi, Bharatpur and Barwan are in Murshidabad district.
At the state secretariat, ADG (law and order), Bengal Police, Anuj Sharma said there would be armed policemen in each of the booths in the state.
Since April 2, when nominations began, three people have been killed and hundreds injured. The injured include CPI(M) leaders, eight-time MP Basudeb Acharya and seven-time MP Ramchandra Dom.