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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

2003 and 2018: When Bengal panchayat polls turned bloody

While the panchayat election in 2003 gained infamy for the death toll, the 2018 polls set a record in the number of seats won without a contest.

kolkata Updated: May 15, 2018 12:31 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Ballot boxes being burned after mobs snatched them from a polling booth during the panchayat polls at Deotala in Malda district of West Bengal, on Monday.
Ballot boxes being burned after mobs snatched them from a polling booth during the panchayat polls at Deotala in Malda district of West Bengal, on Monday. (PTI )
         

Political violence, uncontested victories, bloodshed and deaths — the electoral tradition continues in Bengal.

While the panchayat election in 2003 gained infamy for the death toll, the 2018 polls set a record in the number of seats won without a contest.

Back in 2003, as many as 76 people lost their lives throughout the election process in West Bengal, of which 45 died in Murshidabad district.

Despite being the ruling party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) suffered the maximum casualties at 31, followed by the Congress at 19 and the the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) at eight each. This year, the toll throughout the electoral process stood at 29, of which 13 deaths were reported on Monday from East Midnapore, Nadia, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Murshidabad districts.

The Left parties said of those killed on polling day, five were their supporters, while two were reportedly with the BJP. The others included two supporters each of Independent candidates and the TMC, while one was a voter.

However, the secretary general of the TMC claimed that six of their supporters were killed.

Hundreds of crude bombs were hurled and gunshots fired at different places across the state.

A policeman carrying firearms and another with a cane posted in each booth appeared inadequate. In 2013, when polls were in the limelight because of the tussle between the state government and former state election commissioner Mira Pandey, the deaths stood at 39.

This year, in as many as 34.2% seats, the only candidate to file a nomination was from the TMC. It eclipsed the 2003 record of the CPI(M)-led Left Front which won 11% of the seats uncontested. In 2013, 6,274 of the total seats remained went uncontested to the TMC. In 2008, the number of uncontested seats stood at 5.47%.

First Published: May 15, 2018 07:23 IST