NEW DELHI: The July 8 panchayat election was marked by violence on a large scale with about 20 people being killed on the day alone and about 40 people lost their lives in a month – since the June 8 notification. In a unique development, while the main opposition BJP, CPM and Congress blamed the TMC for the poll-related violence and rigging, the ruling party held all three parties responsible for the “terror and bloodshed”.
Election was held for 63,229 gram panchayat seats, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats and 928 zilla parishad seats in 22 districts of the state.
Repolling was ordered on 697 of the 61,636 booths due to poll-related irregularities. It was held on Monday
On June 23, Mamata Banerjee was one of the prominent leaders in the meeting of opposition leaders at Patna along with the Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party president Rahul Gandhi and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury. The leaders are supposed to meet again on July 17 and 18 to chalk out a strategy for unitedly contesting against the ruling BJP.
However, the opposition unity was thrown to the winds in the Bengal panchayat election. Rather, the Congress and CPM were on the same page as the BJP in accusing the ruling TMC of presiding over violence during the election.
On the other hand, TMC held all three – BJP, Congress and CPM – responsible for the violence.
In the 2021 West Bengal assembly election, TMC won 213 of the 292 seats while the BJP was victorious on 77 seats. Both CPM and Congress failed to open their account in the election for the very first time in the state’s electoral history even though the two parties had ruled the state for several decades before TMC won the election in 2011.
West Bengal leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari, the BJP leader who had defeated Mamata in the 2021 assembly election from Nandigram, wrote a letter to the State Election Commission (SEC) blaming the “party in power” and demanding repoll.
The letter said, “We do not have any words to describe the complete failure of the commission to conduct a free and fair poll… Just on polling day, 17 precious lives were lost, widespread rigging (took place) in many instances with active participation of polling officers, non-deployment of any force, state and central. Despite court orders, civic volunteers were used. Accordingly, we demand repoll be announced in all booths where CCTV/ video footage show false voting, polling officers’ involvement in rigging and where BJP candidate or agent were forcibly removed before end of polls. Furthermore, to ensure free and fair counting, the promulgation of Sec 144 in the entire area of police stations within which counting centres have been established. Considering the past track record of the party in power, the central forces should be retained for at least 15 days after results.”
On Monday, he blamed the TMC on Twitter and said, “Ballot Box Heist! Ballot Boxes looted by chor TMC party goons in the Lalgola Block, Murshidabad district. Trinamool Means Thieves.”
He said, “Everyone knows that day before yesterday – on 8th July, 2023 – what happened across the length and breadth of West Bengal, in the garb of so-called panchayat election. There was widespread and unabated violence resulting in more than 20 deaths, while leaving hundreds injured. Thousands of polling booths were captured by TMC goons in order to rig the voting process, even the polling booths were bombed, there was arson within the booths, the polling officers were held at gunpoint while criminals engaged in ‘chappa’ voting. The WB Police personnel were mere spectators or acted as facilitators.”
Adhikari further said, “Out of the 61 thousand plus booths in the 44 thousand booth compartments (complexes housing a single or more than one booth), the majority of them were captured by the TMC goons.”
He said initially the Bengal BJP provided the details of more than 6,000 booths where either the CCTV cameras were not installed or malfunctioning or there would be clear evidence of false polling captured by the CCTV cameras. The party has demanded repoll in all such booths.
Adhikari said, “The State Election Commission is conducting repolls in only 696 booths across the state. It is a complete sham and wilful contempt of Calcutta high court’s order,” and added that the party’s lawyers will submit all the relevant documents and evidence to the high court on Tuesday.
“We will not let the State Election Commission get away with their daylight robbery,” Adhikari said.
BJP’s head of information and technology department Amit Malviya, who is also the party’s co-in-charge for West Bengal, alleged that the SEC was acting on the instruction of Mamata.
He said, “The repolling ordered on 600 odd booths in West Bengal is another farce, perpetuated by the WB SEC, on instructions of Mamata Banerjee, and is nothing more than an attempt to whitewash the gross irregularities, murders, electoral violations and booth capturing witnessed on the polling date.”
He said Adhikari had met SEC chairperson Rajiva Sinha and Mamata’s “henchman” on the night of July 8, and demanded repolling on several thousand booths (detailing reasons for them) and handed over a specific list of approx 6,000 booths (a small subset of the overall number).
Malviya directly blamed TMC supremo Mamata for the incidents in the state. “In her lust to grab power at any cost, Mamata Banerjee has bent every institution, violated every law and most importantly undermined the free will of the people of Bengal. Her high-handedness will come to haunt her. West Bengal will soon reduce her to a footnote of history.”
Blaming the TMC further, he said, “This panchayat poll in Bengal has seen it all: a missing SEC, who has wilfully colluded with the ruling TMC to subvert the election, contempt of courts, mishandled deployment of CAPF (Central Armed Police Force) by the state administration, despite force being on ground, booth capturing, which started as early as last evening, bombs, gun fires, stone pelting, murders, diligent presiding officers threaten and intimidated by TMC goons, proxy voting, chappa, ballot boxes being dumped in drains and being fled with… You name it and it has happened here in Bengal. There can be no greater example of dereliction of duty and subversion of democracy. Mamata Banerjee can now retain the mantle for running the most lawless state.”
Though Congress president Kharge condemned the violence in Bengal, he stopped short of blaming any party due to the party’s political compulsions at the central level.”
He said, “I condemn the violence in West Bengal. Fair and clean elections should be held without any hindrance. If there are no fair elections, democracy will cease to exist.”
However, the West Bengal unit of the Congress led by its state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is also the leader of the party in Lok Sabha, directly blamed TMC and Mamata for the killing of its workers and supporters.
The Bengal Congress said in a tweet, “The whole country has witnessed bloodshed in panchayat election 2023 in West Bengal by the @AITCofficial goons supported by the state administration and WB Police. Ballot boxes were burnt. Booths were looted and bombing happened, thus, causing the death of our workers.”
The Congress said, “Election violence is like a stigma on the forehead of Mamta Banerjee-led government. This uncontrollable violence raises questions only on CM. Under the patronage of her power, such an army of goons has been prepared, which is often being heavy on police and administration causing huge damage.”
It alleged the role of TMC in several specific instances. “Trinamool miscreants attacked the house of a Congress worker and social worker Sabub Halsana during the panchayat polls in Noda village. Pradesh Congress president Adhir Ranjan Choudhury went to his house today to meet his family members.”
In another one, it said, “West Bengal pradesh Congress president and Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury met the bereaved family members of 62-year-old Congress worker Haji Liaquat Ali, who was brutally killed by Trinamool killers in a bomb attack in Madhupur panchayat Gangadhari village of Noda police station.”
In yet another instance of blaming TMC, the state Congress said, “Malda district Congress president Abu Hashem Khan Chowdhury (Dalu Babur) led a road blockade program at Rathbari intersection to protest the way the ruling party killed democracy and looted votes in the Tristar panchayat elections yesterday. The DM office has also been cordoned off.”
In a tweet, CPM spoke against the allegedly TMC-orchestrated violence. It said, “The Left Front protests against Trinamool terror in panchayat elections in front of the State Election Commission office,” and added that the Left Front leadership was led by leaders such as Biman Bose, CPM state secretary and former MP Mohammad Salim and Suryakant Mishra.
A CPM tweet said, “Paying last tribute to Shaheed Comrade Rajibul Haque (32) of Aushgram, East Burdwan. A victim of the targeted attack by TMC goons on the eve of the poll day,” with the hashtags “Killer TMC” and “Panchayat Poll Violence”.
Trinamool miscreants came to take over the booths in two booths No. 15 and 16 of Kamche Primary School of Goghat Village Panchayat of Goghat Block No. 1. Then the Trinamool miscreants retreated to resist the girls.
The Left Front protested against “Trinamool terror” in panchayat elections in front of the SEC office.
On its part, TMC directly blamed the state units of the BJP, Congress and CPM for perpetrating the violence. The ruling party also sought to play the victim card.
In a tweet, it said, “Who was the worst victim of the brazen violence perpetuated by ‘harmads’ of BJP Bengal, CPM Bengal and Congress Bengal? Our party workers and candidates. Whose reputation was dragged through the mud as central forces stood like mute spectators while violence escalated? Ours. Who was disproportionately affected by CRPF personnel shameless canvassing for the BJP? Us. And when it came to blame games, at whom were fingers pointed? Again, us.”
TMC alleged that the BJP, Congress and CPM have been the “true architects of terror and bloodshed” in this year’s panchayat elections. It accused them of aiming to create chaos and unrest for their own benefit. “Let the voice of the people of Bengal be heard loud and clear. We refuse to succumb to their tactics of violence and fear-mongering,” it said.
TMC also blamed the state unit of the BJP for some violence-related incidents. For instance, it said, “The Bengal BJP has crossed all limits of barbarity in the ongoing panchayat elections in LoP Suvendu Adhikari’s home district, Purba Medinipur. One day, Mr Adhikari incites BJP workers to ‘throw away’ ballot boxes. Following his orders, two days later, they start bombarding the polling site. After all this, he has the audacity to blame us for the ‘law and order’ crisis that he himself is bent on creating. Hungry for power, he has completely disregarded human lives.”

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