6 dead in 'stray' violence; 72.5% turnout
Kolkata: Barring some "stray" incidents of violence which claimed six lives, the Panchayat elections passed off peacefully in Bengal on Monday.
The unofficial sources, however, put the death toll to 12. The Centre has sought a report from the state government on the violence that marred the election process.
The State Election Commission said the total poll percentage was 72.5 percent. Voting took place in 46,404 polling stations and the total number of voters was 5.04 crore. There were 2872 candidates in Zilla Parishad seats while those in Panchayat Samity and Gram Panchayat were 20,535 and 92204. Senior SEC officials said preliminary reports stated that there might be repoll in 13 booths. In Birbhum, the poll percentage was 80 while in North 24-Parganas, East Midnapore, East Burdwan, Jhargram, Hooghly, Howrah and Cooch Behar it was above 70 percent. In Jalpaiguri, Malda, South Dinajpur and Alipurduar, the poll percentage was less than 60 due to incessant rain. In Murshidabad, it was around 76%.
Surajit Kar Purkayastha, Director General of Police, said of the 12 people who died on Monday; six died in poll-related incidents.
Purkayastha said: "It's after a long time that the Panchayat poll was held on one single day. All necessary arrangements were made as we had assured the State Election Commission (SEC)."
Purkayastha held a press conference at Nabanna along with ADG (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma.
Stating that there was no complaint of inadequate policemen and till now 60 to 70 persons were arrested, he said: "Some stray incidents have taken place. The police will take appropriate action in connection with these incidents. Some people were killed. Any death is unfortunate. But if you all take a proper look, you all will find that number of deaths and violence are comparatively far lesser than the previous Panchayat elections. In 2013, 25 people had died, and the election was held in five phases."
He further maintained: "Police officers of all ranks and civic volunteers as well have tried their best to ensure the security of polling officials and voters. The election took place in more than 46000 polling booths. So, compared to the number of booths, the cases of violence are much less. Necessary steps will also be taken to avoid any untoward incident on the day of counting."
Partha Chatterjee, secretary general of the Trinamool Congress, said six persons who died during the day were all TMC supporters. The deceased were identified as Arif Ali Gazi of Kultuli, South 24-Parganas; Sanjit Pramanick of Nadia's Shantipur; Bhola Tapadar of Nakashipara, Nadia; Moinuddin Mullick of Tapan in South Dinajpur; Biswanath Tudu of South Dinajpur and Krishnapada Sarkar of Nadia. He said except for a few stray incidents; the election was by and large peaceful. He further maintained: "Trinamool Congress does not support the occurrence of such stray incidents and the death of any political worker whether belonging to TMC or the Opposition and any death is unfortunate."
He said in Kakdwip, the death of two persons was due to electrocution and blaming Trinamool for this was "uncalled for." In Amdanga and Nandigram, three workers of the CPI(M) had died in a bomb explosion. They were carrying live bombs which exploded, and they got killed.
Coming down heavily on the BJP, Chatterjee said the party had brought in "outsiders" from Bangladesh, Jharkhand and Assam to create trouble in North 24-Parganas and South Dinajpur to create ruckus and violence. "How could the BSF allow the infiltrators," he wondered. He further alleged that the BJP, Congress and CPI(M) had been in hand-and-glove and tried to create disturbance in various areas.
Meanwhile, the Left Front leaders staged a demonstration outside the SEC office alleging its complete failure to conduct the polls while BJP leaders met Governor K N Tripathi.
In many areas, the candidates of both the ruling party and the Opposition stood outside the polling stations requesting voters to cast in favour of their favoured candidate. A journalist of Khabor 365 was injured after miscreants beat him up in New Town where he had gone to gather news.
Three police personnel were injured during the polls on Monday and the state police are taking all necessary steps to provide all sorts of assistance to them.