The major opposition parties in West Bengal have demanded cancellation of elections to seven municipal bodies, which were held today, alleging widespread violence and booth-capturing by Trinamool Congress workers. The ruling TMC, however, denied any role in the poll violence and blamed the BJP and CPI(M) for it. The State Election Commission declined to comment on the issue. At Durgapur in West Burdwan district, clashes between various groups were reported since early morning and several vehicles were set on fire. A huge police contingent was rushed to the area to control the situation. Violence was also reported from various wards of Haldia and Panskura in East Midnapore district. However, when contacted, Additional Director General of Police (law and order) Anuj Sharma said, “Some small incidents were reported.”
The Congress demanded removal of State Election Commissioner (SEC) A K Singh and staged a sit-in outside the State Election Commission office here. “The SEC has completely failed to conduct the polls in a free-and-fair manner. This is not the first time this has happened, we had witnessed the same thing in the municipal election held in May. The TMC has turned the elections into a farce,” Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly and senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan said.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh demanded cancellation of the elections at Haldia, Panskura and Durgapur Municipal Corporation (DMC). “We demand that fresh elections are held after the deployment of central forces. We do not demand the SEC’s removal as that will not solve the matter as he is under the state government,” he told PTI.
Denying that the ruling party was involved in the poll violence, state minister Aroop Biswas said, “Those who do not believe in democracy resorted to violence. The BJP resorted to violence and it was aided by the CPI(M) in it. As they were well aware that they would lose these elections, they resorted to violence and are now crying foul.” CPI(M) politburo member Mohammed Salim told PTI, “We want the elections to be cancelled as the TMC had unleashed terror at all the places where polling was held.”
Claiming that the elections had turned into a “farce”, he said, “Miscreants owing allegiance to the TMC have been terrorising everyone with guns, bombs and other weapons. Voters, candidates, election agents — no one has been spared.” Polling for seven urban local bodies (ULBs) — five municipalities, one notified authority and one municipal corporation — was held during the day and the results will be declared on August 17.
The municipalities which went to the polls are Panskura and Haldia in East Midnapore district, Nalhati in Birbhum, Buniadpur in South Dinajpur and Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri districts.
Durgapur Municipal Corporation (DMC) in Burdwan West and Cooper’s Camp Notified Authority in Nadia district are the two other ULBs which witnessed polling today. By-polls were held in ward number 12 under the Champdani municipality and ward number 7 of the Jhargram municipality.
According to State Election Commission sources, till 3 pm, the voting percentage recorded at Panskura, Haldia, Nalhati, Buniadpur and Dhupguri was 73.4, 76.5, 75.5, 80.78 and 73 per cent respectively. DMC and Cooper’s Camp recorded 71.12 and 88.33 per cent polling respectively till 3 pm.