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West Bengal: Opposition leaders 'assaulted', 'stopped' from filing nominations for panchayat polls

The ruling Trinamool Congress accused the opposition parties of forming an 'unholy nexus' to delay the elections and tarnish the state's image due to fear of defeat.

Hritika Mitra Edited By: Hritika Mitra @MitraHritika Kolkata Published on: June 12, 2023 23:39 IST
West Bengal: Opposition leaders 'assaulted', 'stopped' from
Image Source : ANI West Bengal: Opposition leaders 'assaulted', 'stopped' from filing nominations for panchayat polls

In separate incidents of clashes reported in West Bengal, unidentified miscreants allegedly attacked opposition candidates while they were on their way to file nomination papers for the panchayat polls, a senior official said. The clashes were reported in Daspur (Paschim Medinipur), Kakdwip (South 24 Parganas), Raninagar (Murshidabad), Saktinagar and Barshul (both in Purba Bardhaman) and Minakhan (North 24 Parganas), he said.

The ruling Trinamool Congress accused the opposition parties of forming an "unholy nexus" to delay the elections and tarnish the state's image due to fear of defeat. Opposition BJP, Congress, and CPI(M), on the other hand, alleged that their candidates have been prevented by TMC activists from submitting nomination papers in various districts and argued that without the deployment of central forces, it is impossible to have peaceful and fair elections in the state.

A CPI(M) party office at Minakhan in Basirhat subdivision was "vandalised" and the candidate was "assaulted" by the miscreants when he was going to file his nomination, the official said. In another incident at Sonamukhi in Bankura district, BJP MLA Dibakar Gharami was allegedly attacked by unidentified people as he was heading to the nomination centre. "Several such incidents of clashes have been reported, and we have sought details in this regard from the DMs and SPs," the senior State Election Commission (SEC) official told PTI.

The development comes on a day the SEC directed all district magistrates and superintendents of police to impose prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CRPC in a one-km radius of all nomination centres. The orders, which were issued on Sunday, will be in force till Thursday. The panchayat polls are scheduled to be held on July 8. The SEC official said over 10,000 nomination papers have been filed so far.

Meanwhile, the SEC on Monday told the Calcutta High Court that it can extend the last date of filing nominations for the panchayat polls by a day to June 16. After hearing petitions of opposition leaders for an extension of the date for filing nominations and deployment of central forces for the July 8 polls, the court had on June 9 observed that the time given for filing papers is prima facie inadequate.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, "The fact is that the opposition – the BJP, CPI (M), and the Congress -- were trying to delay the panchayat polls out of the fear of defeat and their inability to put up candidates in all seats. We challenge them to publish the list of their candidates for all seats." Mocking the opposition for complaining about lack of time to file nominations, Ghosh said, "If they can't find candidates, we will provide them with one. The unholy nexus of the BJP, Congress and the CPI(M) is trying to malign the state by disturbing the peaceful law and order situation in the state."

"The SEC is working like a frontal organisation of the TMC. With the deployment of central forces, free and fair elections are not possible in West Bengal. The TMC wants to turn this panchayat election into a farce, just like 2018," BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said. In the 2018 rural polls, the TMC won 90 per cent of the Panchayat seats in the state and all 22 Zila Parishads. However, these elections were marred by widespread violence and malpractices, with the opposition alleging they were prevented from filing nominations in many seats. 

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the people of West Bengal can cast their votes only if central forces are deployed. "The TMC just wants to loot the public mandate, and the SEC and the state police are just working as its frontal organisations," he said. In 2013, the panchayat polls were held with central forces stationed at every polling booth in the state. Despite their deployment, the TMC, which had been in power for two years then, won over 85 per cent of the seats, with the opposition alleging malpractices.

CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim said, "We strongly condemn the terror tactics adopted by the TMC to derail the democratic process by unleashing violence on opposition candidates filing nominations for the upcoming panchayat elections." Elections will be held for nearly 75,000 seats in the three-tier Panchayati Raj system on July 8. The nomination process, which began on Friday, would continue till June 15, SEC had announced last week.

(With inputs from PTI)

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