Kolkata, May 18: The panchayat polls of West Bengal are being dubbed the bloodiest polls in the state"s history. Violence marred the third phase of panchayat elections in West Bengal with 18 deaths in seven districts of the state.
On Sunday, polling was held in seven districts — Murshidabad, Malda, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Coochbehar. Till 3 in the afternoon more than 55 per cent polling was reported from the districts, according to Raj Kanojia, IG, state police. He added that around 100 people were arrested in connection with various violent incidents. Official sources put the death toll in at 18.
In Raninagar in Murshidabad district, an altercation between the CPI(M) and Congress workers at a polling station turned violent leading to firing and hurling of bombs. Out of the seven districts Murshidabad was the worst hit, which reported around fourteen deaths. Congress supporter Bhupati Mondal was shot while a bullet hit a voter. Five others were critically injured in the clash. Mondal later died in the hospital.
In Jalpaiguri district"s Madarihat area, the battered body of a CPI(M) supporter was found near National Highway 31. Tne person was killed in Birbhum"s Nannur district when he was trying to make bombs. But the IG could not confirm these two cases.
The state Election Commission termed the elections peaceful. “The turn-out was low but overall it was peaceful. There were stray incidents and five people lost their lives," S N Roychoudhury, Special Secretary of the Election Commission, said.
CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose said: “This time the elections have been less violent than that in 2003." The Congress, on the other hand, expressed hope that it would retain both the Malda and Murshidabad zilla parishads. Apart from retaining these two, we will win North Dinajpur zilla parishad too," Subrata Mukherjee, Congress leader, said.
Even as bitter rivals Congress and CPM engage in a war of words in the seven districts, in the final phase of the panchayat polls, the death toll keeps rising from Murshidabad and Birbhum as these elections have become the bloodiest in the history of panchayat polls in the state.