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Parts of West Bengal tense ahead of panchayat elections on May 14

Violence was reported from the districts of East Midnapore, Bankura, Hooghly and Malda.

india Updated: May 14, 2018 00:01 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya and Kaushik Datta
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya and Kaushik Datta
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Midnapore
Bengal panchayat polls,Panchayat polls,Bengal rural elections
Election personnels distributing ballot boxes to polling officials at BDO office, on the eve of West Bengal panchayat elections in Birbhum district on May 13.(PTI Photo)

Several pockets of Bengal remained tense on Sunday over the prospect of violence on Monday, when 38,529 seats of the three-tier panchayat system go to polls, as the death toll in political violence continued to rise.

Following the death of a land agitator at Bhangar near Kolkata last Friday, a BJP supporter whose wife is contesting the elections in West Midnapore district was attacked on Saturday night with sharp-edged and blunt weapons. Manua Hansda died on Sunday morning. With this, the death toll in the run-up to the elections reached 16.

Violence was reported from the districts of East Midnapore, Bankura, Hooghly and Malda. In most cases, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was accused of causing it while in some cases, supporters of the ruling party bore the brunt of the violence as well. Police have sealed the state’s border with Jharkhand.

The rural polls are being seen as a dress rehearsal for the parliamentary elections due next year and are expected to reflect trends with regard to the position of various opposition parties.

The TMC has already won 34.4% of the total seats unopposed— a record since the Panchayati Raj was introduced — but opposition parties hope to put up a fight. “I appeal to everybody to maintain peace and ensure violence-free elections. Please do not react to any kind of provocation from anyone,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said.

While it’s a battle of survival for the Left and the Congress, the BJP is confident of establishing itself as the main opposition party. In the 2016 assembly elections, the BJP obtained only three seats while the Congress won 44 and the Left bagged 33.

This time, though it will be a quadrangular fight in a majority of the seats, the BJP stands way ahead of the Left and the Congress.

The ruling party at the Centre, which had very small rural base in the state even two years ago, managed to file nominations in 73% of the 38,529 seats up for polling, whereas the Left Front managed to put up candidates in 56% seats and the Congress in only about 20% seats.

“We hope the Election Commission will ensure free polling, though we anticipate violence in many pockets to scare people so that they do not vote,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said.

Panchayat poll numbers

•58,692 total seats in the three-tier panchayat system

•20,163 seats have been won by Trinamool Congress unopposed

•38,529 seats going for polls will see mostly multi-corner contests

•47,100 polling booths are housed in 35,000 polling premises across 20 districts

•28,162 seats being contested by the BJP, the highest after Trinamool

•21,602 seats are being contested by the Left Front

•7,695 seats contested by the Congress is its least in decades

•86 seats have no candidate from the Trinamool Congress

•1,54,500 policemen, including Bengal police, civic volunteers and cops from the Sikkim, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have being deployed

First Published: May 13, 2018 23:33 IST