SC asks BJP to approach Calcutta HC over WB panchayat polls grievances
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in the West Bengal rural polls and asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to approach the Calcutta high court with demands that include an extension of the deadline for filing nominations.
Violence in the run-up to the polls, meanwhile, claimed two more lives. Safiar Rehman Mondal, a Trinamool leader in the Sashan area of North 24 Parganas district, was stabbed to death on Wednesday afternoon while he and his followers were celebrating the ruling party’s uncontested victory at the Falti-Beliaghata gram panchayat. The sole assailant, identified as Rajib Ali, was beaten to death on Taki Road by Trinamool supporters.
Confirming the deaths, superintendent of police C Sudhakar said there was a possibility that the attack on Mondal stemmed from personal enmity. “Police are investigating the case,” he said.
In the morning, the apex court directed the BJP and CPI(M) to appear on Thursday before the high court where a hearing has been fixed. The CPI(M) had sought postponement of the elections till opposition candidates could file nomination papers.
The two opposition parties in the state are accusing workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress, led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, of assaulting and intimidating their candidates amid widespread violence in the run-up to the panchayat polls on May 1, 3 and 5. Counting of votes will take place on May 8. The polls are being seen as a test of strength for the Trinamool and opposition BJP and Congress ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
Referring to the deaths at Sashan and other incidents of violence, Banerjee said in the evening that a section of the media was highlighting only a handful of incidents only to malign her government.
“CPI(M) and BJP leaders have ganged up against us. A section of the media is helping them. I suspect the hand of paid media in this wide coverage of violence. There has been violence in only five or six places. The opposition has filed 74,000 nominations. How could they do it?” Banerjee claimed.
In the evening, Left Front chairman Biman Bose announced a six-hour general strike in Bengal from 6 am to 12 noon on April 13. Banerjee said the government would not allow any strike. ‘There will not be any strike, let me make this clear,” she said.
Meanwhile, prominent Bengali intellectuals, including those who stood by Mamata Banerjee in her fight against the Left Front regime, on Wednesday slammed TMC for displaying ‘totalitarian and dictatorial tends’ and called for electoral reforms.
“We have been shamed in front of the democracy-loving people at home and abroad by the incidents that have taken place in the nomination phase of the panchayat polls,” said a statement issued by some of Bengal’s prominent theatre personalities, educationists, lawyers, human rights activists and folk singers. Former advocate general Bimal Chatterjee, who resigned last year, also signed the statement.
Trinamool Congress refuted the charges and alleged that the intellectuals blindly followed biased media reports without checking facts.