New Delhi: Amid reports of violence in the West Bengal panchayat polls, Governor CV Ananda Bose on Saturday said that elections must be held “through ballots not bullets,” and said the day should be considered as the “most sacred” for democracy.”
Various incidents of violence have been reported from different districts in the state. Earlier in the day, while the Governor was on his way to cast his vote in the North 24-Parganas, Bose was stopped by a few CPI(M) candidates. The CPI(M) candidates shared their concerns with the Governor.
“I have been in the field right from the morning…People requested me and stopped my motorcade on the way. They told me about the murders happening around them, told me about the goons not allowing them to go to the polling booths…It should cause concern to all of us. This is the most sacred day for democracy…The election must be through ballots and not bullets,” the Governor said while talking to the reporters here.
Several incidents of ballot box and ballot paper looting, as well as destruction, were reported from numerous polling booths in the State.
#WATCH | West Bengal panchayat election | West Bengal LoP and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari says, “This is not an election, this is death. There is a fire of violence across the state. Central forces have not been deployed. CCTVs are not operating. This is not voting but… pic.twitter.com/7XOAiG4V1S
— ANI (@ANI) July 8, 2023
The Bharatiya Janata Party has accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of being involved in the incidents.
“Bloodshed in West Bengal in Panchayat Election. TMC candidate killed an independent Muslim candidate in North 24, Parganas dist. TMC knows only language of violence, murder and booth capturing. CM @MamataOfficial along with @CEOWestBengal is responsible for these murders,” BJP state chief Sukanta Majumdar said.
Meanwhile, West Bengal minister Shashi Panja asked why central forces “failed to protect the citizens”.
“TMC workers have been murdered, two have been shot at. Those who were asking for deployment, saying that these central forces are the guardians of peace – the guardians have failed, faltered to protect the rights of citizens,” Panja said.
The panchayat elections are underway for a single phase, with the counting of votes scheduled on July 11.
The polls are likely to see a fierce tussle for control of local administrations between the ruling TMC and the BJP and will be a litmus test for both parties ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) July 8, 2023
Around 5.67 crore voters are likely to exercise their franchise to choose representatives for nearly 928 seats across 22 zilla parishads, 9,730 panchayat Samiti, and 63,239-gram panchayats seats.
West Bengal has 3,341 gram panchayats and the number of village panchayat election centres is 58,594. There are 63,239 seats at the Gram Panchayat level, 9730 at Panchayat Samiti and 928 at the Zila Parishad level.
In 2018, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) won uncontested, 34 per cent of the seats in panchayat elections, which also saw various instances of violence. Trinamool Congress has won many seats uncontestedly in the 2023 elections as well.