Three killed, 100 houses vandalised on eve of 4th phase of Bengal panchayat polls

Three Congress workers were killed ahead of Monday`s fourth phase of panchayat polls in four districts of West Bengal and at least 100 houses vandalised and looted in South 24-Parganas district on Sunday.

Behrampore: Three Congress workers were killed ahead of Monday`s fourth phase of panchayat polls in four districts of West Bengal and at least 100 houses vandalised and looted in South 24-Parganas district on Sunday.

There was no let up in bombings, arson and clashes in the five-phased panchayat polls that began on July 11. While the fourth phase will be held tomorrow, the final phase will be on July 25.

Police said two Congress workers, Nurmohhamad Sheikh and Ahad Ali, were killed after being hit by crude bombs late last night hurled by rival party workers at Kapasdanga in Murshidabad district, one of the four districts going to polls tomorrow, the other three being Nadia, Birbhum and Malda.

Another Congress worker Repon Sheikh met a similar fate at Bharatpur in the same district during a clash between rival party supporters, police said.

The district also witnessed sporadic incidents of clash, including hurling of bombs and stone pelting, leaving several injured including two policemen in the Kapasdanga area.

Murshidabad district Congress spokesman Ashok Das alleged that his party workers were targeted by the ruling TMC with active help from CPI(M) cadres.

With today`s deaths, a total of 10 persons lost their lives in the rural poll violence. Three persons were killed in the second phase of the poll and four were killed in the third phase.

A body was found at Diamond Harbour in South 24-Parganas district yesterday, but it was not confirmed if the death was caused due to poll violence.

At least 100 houses belonging to RSP workers were vandalised and looted and 40 of them were set on fire allegedly by TMC workers at Basanti in South 24-Parganas district today, police said.

Violence at Nirdeshkhali village in the same district also left a child injured. A large posse of policemen was deployed in the area.

17 TMC workers and supporters and four policemen were injured in a clash with RSP at Jharkhali yesterday. The injured were shifted to Kolkata, Basanti and Canning hospitals.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today appealed to the voters to exercise their franchise peacefully in the remaining two phases, accusing the CPI-M of instigating people to indulge in violent acts.

"Let there be peace in the next two phases of the panchayat elections. When I am trying to reach out to people, the CPI(M) is trying to instigate them with an ulterior motive to disrupt the election as they have lost their support base," Banerjee said in an appeal over a local tv news channel.

"People`s mandate can`t be changed with terror, arson and arms. Its better to accept the verdict," she said.

She justified the state government`s proposal for a one or two-phase rural poll keeping in mind the possibility of violence, but regretted that the proposal was not accepted by the State Election Commission.

"Because of the possibility of an increase in violence with the increase in the number of phases, the government had suggested the holding of the poll either in one phase or two phases, but the State Election Commission did not listen to us," Banerjee said.

She alleged that the CPI(M) was busy unleasing a reign of terror while the Congress was making false complaints in a bid to "supply oxygen to the CPI(M)".

She also alleged that some ministers of the Congress and former ministers of CPI-M were instigating violence while claiming that poll violence had killed 22 Trinamool Congress workers when they were trying to maitain peace.

Asking opposition parties "not to play with fire", she said, "The CPI-M hatched a conspiracy to disrupt the poll process which, it thought, was going against it."

Claiming that Trinamool Congress was in no way involved in the disruption of the democratic process, she said, "SUCI workers were confronted by the Central Force at Jaynagar and Kultali in South 24-Parganas district while the RSP was busy fomenting trouble at Basanti in the same district fearing loosing their base."

In Malda district, 13 persons were injured in three separate incidents. In English Bazar area, it is alleged that Trinamool Congress activists attacked CPI(M) workers, who were standing outside their party office, leaving four injured in the clash.
Similarly in Kaliachowk area, two groups clashed with each other. In the incident, five, including a 50-year-woman, were injured.
In another incident in Ratua area, another four persons were seriously injured when they were allegedly making bombs.