Seven Bengal civic bodies go to the hustings, angry Opposition cries foul
Moderate to brisk polling for seven civic bodies in West Bengal was reported on Sunday, as the principal opposition parties, the Left Front, Congress and BJP, demanded scrapping of the "farcical" elections amid alleged violence and booth capturing in three municipalities.
Kolkata: Moderate to brisk polling for seven civic bodies in West Bengal was reported on Sunday, as the principal opposition parties, the Left Front, Congress and BJP, demanded scrapping of the "farcical" elections amid alleged violence and booth capturing in three municipalities.
A CPI-M leader claimed that at least four party workers were injured in poll violence.
Activists of the Congress and the Left Front, which forged an undeclared alliance for the civic polls, staged a noisy demonstration at the State Election Commission office here and resorted to a road blockade to protest against what they called "rampant looting of votes" by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The protest was held after the poll authorities allegedly refused to meet their leaders and accept their memorandum on complaints regarding voting in three municipalities of Raiganj in North Dinajpur district, Domkal in Murshidabad district, and Pujali in South 24 Parganas district.
The SEC officials promised to meet the Congress and Left representatives after the demonstrators broke through police barricades. However, later the SEC authorities did not meet them citing their preoccupation with poll matters.
Later, Bharatiya Janata Party activists also demonstrated at the same spot, complaining against electoral malpractices.
In Domkal, Pujali and Raiganj, the Trinamool is up against an undeclared seat adjustment between the Congress and the Left Front.
Polling was, however, peaceful in four municipalities in northern Bengal hills -- Darjeeling, Kurseong, Mirik Notified Area Authority in Darjeeling district, and Kalimpong in Kalimpong district.
Communist Party of India-Marxist state Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra alleged that the elections were far from "free and fair".
"In Domkal, motorcycle-borne outsiders attacked our workers and voters with bombs and pistols. The local administration looked the other way.
"Since morning, elections have been a farce. Three of our workers were injured when they were fired upon by Trinamool-backed miscreants. Another worker suffered broken limbs," said Mishra.
He alleged that all polling booths were captured by the Trinamool supporters in Raiganj and Pujali.
"The polling agents of the Congress and Left Front were driven out and electronic voting machines damaged. Even journalists were not spared," he said.
He demanded countermanding of the elections in Domkal, Pujali and Raiganj.
"But we have no illusion that fresh elections will be impartial. This shows it is not possible to hold proper polls so long as the Trinamool is in power," the CPI-M leader said.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury instructed all his party candidates in Domkal to withdraw from the polls, describing the elections as a "farce".
Former Congress MP from Raiganj Deepa Dasmunshi alleged that opposition workers came under intense attack from Trinamool supported "goons".
She said genuine voters were not allowed to exercise their franchise in Raiganj.
"Police and civil officials made no effort to provide protection to voters or our workers," she said.
The elections to the municipalities spread across five districts in the northern, central and southern areas of the state will provide a peek into the mind of voters in small towns.
The polls are a test for the Trinamool to continue its electoral successes and make fresh inroads in the north Bengal hills by breaking the stranglehold of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.
The BJP is striving to to carry forward its bid to become the main opposition force in the state. For the Congress and the LF the challenge is to revive their political fortunes against the backdrop of electoral battles wherein both lost ground to the BJP.