July 23, 2013

Violence, malpractices mar third phase rural polls in West Bengal

KOLKATA: Three persons were killed and the body of nother was found during the third phase of the five-phased panchayat polls in West Bengal on Friday even as allegations of wide-spread electoral malpractices including rigging and booth capturing were made against the ruling Trinamool Congress by major political parties in the Opposition.

One of the victims died when he succumbed to injuries sustained when security forces fired during a clash with local people in the Joynagar area of South 24 Parganas district.

The incident occurred even as there were reports from various places in that district as well as Howrah and North 24 Parganas — the other two districts that went to the polls — that the Central security forces were not put to effective use to prevent violence and electoral malpractices.

“The Centre has been generous to provide security forces to the State. It is for us, the State government to deploy them,” Governor M K Narayanan told journalists in New Delhi, adding that the forces should be deployed not only to ensure the safety and security of voters but to instil confidence among the people. A man, stated to be a supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was killed after being attacked by bombs allegedly by the Trinamool Congress activists in Bodia village in the Amdanga block of the State’s North 24 Parganas district some time after polling began.

A Trinamool Congress supporter was shot dead near a polling booth in the Lakshmikantapur area of the State’s South 24 Parganas district. The police are trying to ascertain the cause of the death of a youth whose body was found in the Ghutia Sharif area of the district and check whether he was another victim of poll-related violence. Officials of the State Election Commission refused to attribute the deaths to a failure in the election machinery. Such a question could have risen had they occurred inside polling premises.

More than 70 percent voters have exercised their franchise by the evening in the three districts and the officials said that the figure was expected to rise later in the evening as final reports pour in, they said. Supporters of the CPI(M) descended on the major roads in the districts and tried to put up a blockade in protests against the manner in which elections were held. At certain places, Trinamool Congress supporters attacked them. “The State government has unleashed a war on the State Election Commission and on the democratic right of the people to participate in the polls,” Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said.

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