KOLKATA: At least 20 people were injured after clashes broke out in several districts across West Bengal on Monday morning during the ongoing state Panchayat polls. Media vehicles were torched as members of political parties ran amok on the street, stopping voters to exercise their franchise. The Opposition alleged that members of the ruling Trinamool Congress are not letting voters enter poll booths. Incidents of violence were reported from South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Birpara.
A media vehicle was torched in South 24 Parganas' Bhangar district, the camera and other equipment broken. Mediapersons were not allowed to enter the area, reported news agency ANI.
In another incident, two persons – a Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) worker and his wife – a were charred to death in North 24 Parganas on Sunday night. CPM later claimed that TMC members were behind the attack. Later, the party took to Twitter to claim:
Is this the Democracy you are talking about @MamataOfficial ? Is this the free and fair election you are talking about? @cpimspeak member Comrade #DebuDas and #UshaDas from Kakdweep, were torched to death by @AITCofficial goons last night. #BloodBath continues in #WestBengal pic.twitter.com/I6gbhEvtWR
— CPI(M) WEST BENGAL (@CPIM_WESTBENGAL) May 14, 2018
The much-awaited West Bengal panchayat polls are currently underway amid tight security. The polling began at 7 am and will continue till 5 pm. The counting will take place on May 17. The rural elections are being held in 621 zilla parishads and 6157 panchayat samitis, besides in 31,827 gram panchayats, spread across 20 districts.
The panchayat polls are the last major elections to be witnessed by the state before Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
The run-up to the polls witnessed intense violence, a series of court cases, and clashes among supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress and the opposition BJP, Congress and the Left across districts. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday urged people and political parties to participate peacefully and avoid rumours. Opposition parties, meanwhile accused the State Election Commission (SEC) of not providing enabling environment for their candidates to file nominations. They also accused the TMC for inciting violence during the nomination process for the polls. Trinamool has termed these allegations baseless.