West Bengal Panchayat Election 2023

West Bengal Panchayat Election 2023 Live Updates: Tragedy Strikes with 16 Fatalities Amidst Violence and Allegations of Coercion

West Bengal Panchayat Elections Held on 8th July Despite Assurances of Free and Fair Polls by the Ruling Party and Intervention by the Calcutta High Court, Turned Out to be Exactly What Most People in the State Had Feared: Violent, Lawless, and a Mockery of Democracy.

At least 12 people were murdered around the state on election day as a result of violence, fraud, and vote thievery. The 2023 Panchayat Elections demonstrated once again that murder and electoral malfeasance have become standard features of Bengali elections.

The assassinations began the night before the elections. Four people were killed, including Jasmine Sheikh, a Congress worker from Rejinagar in Murshidabad district, Sabiruddin Sheikh, a Trinamool Congress worker from Khargram in Murshidabad, Babar Ali, a Trinamool Congress worker from Beldanga in the same district, and Ganesh Sarkar, a Trinamool Congress worker from Koch Bihar. They were all assassinated only hours before the polls began.

Chaos ensued as soon as voting started at 7 a.m. on July 8th. Competitive parties in the state included the reigning Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Congress, and independent candidates.

There was widespread fraud and violence in the presence of police and security personnel. Political activists were observed rushing about with vote boxes, hurling them into ponds, shattering them, putting voting papers on fire, and even spraying water on them. An official was seized at gunpoint in Dinhat, Koch Bihar, and a certain political party’s insignia was forcefully imprinted on his forehead.

Six people had been slain by the afternoon, and by the end of the day, at least 12 people had been killed in election-related violence, including seven members of the governing party. Over 30 individuals died during the electoral process in only one month, from the nomination phase on June 9th to election day.

Despite the State Election Commission’s call for 822 central forces companies for the polls, only 649 companies came as a result of rulings from the Calcutta High Court. As a consequence, violence continued unabated. There were riots, destruction at polling sites, intimidation and assaults on polling officials, voter suppression, and even police officers were attacked, with numerous police cars being destroyed. Complaints were made constantly that the central forces were nowhere to be seen, and the police seemed to be helpless bystanders.

In the face of widespread criticism, State Election Commissioner Rajeev Sinha declared, “The responsibility of controlling violence lies with district-level officials.” My duty is to make sure that everything is in order, and that we did everything possible. It is hard to foresee who would injure whom, but I can say that our election preparations were enough.

Meanwhile, in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, opposition leader Suvendu Adhikari has asked for the installation of the President’s rule in the state. He said, ‘The Centre should interfere under either Article 355 or 356. we seek action from the custodian of the Constitution.

Trinamool in Trouble: West Bengal Panchayat Election Challenges Faced by the Party

The violence has exposed the deteriorating law and order situation in the state, which has also engulfed the Trinamool Congress government. Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Shashi Panja, refuted the allegations made against the government. She revealed that out of the 61,539 polling booths, irregularities were reported in approximately 60 booths. “Serious incidents occurred in only 8-9 booths… The opposition parties demanded the presence of central forces, but we need to question their role in this election. We have learned that the Border Security Force and central forces were attempting to influence voters,” said Panja.

She further accused the opposition parties of deliberately instigating and creating a tense situation to provoke the ruling party. Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh also attempted to downplay the extensive violence by claiming that Trinamool was the one under attack. “CPIM (M) and Congress, both engage in violence while in power, and the BJP should remain silent after witnessing what it is doing in other states,” Ghosh said.

However, the scenes of violence, dead bodies, and electoral malpractice widely displayed throughout the day on various television news channels and social media platforms have become a major embarrassment for Trinamool, which is trying to change its image before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

It should be noted that the alleged excesses committed by Trinamool during the 2018 rural elections resulted in a setback for the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where the BJP won 18 out of 42 parliamentary seats, and Trinamool’s tally dropped below 34. From 2014 to 22, they had MPs.

Although the election results, scheduled to be announced on July 11, may favor Trinamool, concerns arise from the long-term consequences of the events that have unfolded in the past month since the announcement of the election date for the ruling party in West Bengal.

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