In the wake of the recent reports of growing pre-poll violence in West Bengal ahead of the panchayat elections, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has demanded for a President's Rule in the state. "Without imposing President's rule, no one will be able to exercise their democratic right. This is the need of the hour", Chowdhury told ANI.
Union minister Babul Supriyo, too, has voiced a similar demand citing the troubled situation in the state. The BJP leader tweeted:
Presidents Rule should be imposed in the State of West Bengal with immediate effect • It’s not about attacks against any political party, it’s attack by the State GOVERNMENT, yes, the DiDi-LED-TMC Govt. against democracy & humanity.. Mamta Banerjee must meet her Political END
— Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) April 23, 2018
Violence has been reported from various corners of the state ahead of the panchayat polls. Instead of making arrangements to curb growing tensions, political parties have spent their time blaming each other for the unrest.
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sheikh Dildar Khan was shot dead at Suri in Birbhum district in a skirmish over the filing of nominations for the upcoming West Bengal panchayat elections on Monday. Citing Sheikh’s father, Tahid Khan, BJP alleged that the deceased was a party worker whose wife was to file nomination for contesting the rural polls. He was fired at while he was accompanying his wife to file nomination. Citing the same relative within hours, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief in Birbhum district Anubrata Mondal alleged that Sheikh Dildar Khan was killed by mercenaries brought in by the BJP from the neighbouring state of Jharkhand.
Surjya Kanta Mishra, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, said the Trinamool Congress and the BJP had started a tug of war over the killing of an innocent man, referring to the incident in Suri. It showed that the two parties were on the same side of the "polarisation" process, he added.
Violence was reported from several parts of Bengal including Birbhum, North 24 Parganas, Malda etc with even senior opposition leaders allegedly being targetted by ruling party. Supriyo even alleged that he was stopped from escorting his party workers to file nomination and that the police is helping the ruling party.
A senior TMC leader brushed off the allegations as "baseless" and blamed the opposition for "vitiating peace" in some parts of the state. Bobby Hakim, who is a state minister and close aide of chief minister Mamata Banerjee , said that the BJP is gradually losing ground in the state and hence bringing people from outside to garner support.
The dates for the polls, which were earlier scheduled to be held on 1, 3 and 5 May are yet to be announced by the Election Commission. The nominations received on Monday would be scrutinised on 25 April. The last date for the withdrawal of candidature is 28 April 28 as per the Election Commission notification. According to a report in Livemint, a key official at the commission said though the High Court had asked for a consultation with all stakeholders in deciding a new schedule, the commission may not have any further discussion with the opposition parties. The commission has already taken note of their demands and the new schedule is likely to be decided soon in consultation with the state administration, this person said, asking not to be identified.
As per the Livemint report, the Congress and the BJP are expected to move the Calcutta High Court again on Tuesday. According to a lawyer backing the Congress petition, the poll panel should have notified the new schedule for polling while extending the window for filing nominations. The commission could not have filed a notification separately only for filing nominations, which makes it technically invalid, he said.
Meanwhile, the resistance group moved the Calcutta High Court on Monday. Justice Subrata Talukdar, who had earlier stalled the electoral process by issuing an injunction, on Monday ordered the state election commission to file a report by Tuesday over the allegation that miscreants had obstructed candidates from filing nominations.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya held a press conference in Kolkata on Monday where he alleged that the party's candidates were obstructed from filing nomination for the Panchayat elections, and the party elections were vandalized by goons, at the behest of ruling-TMC in the state. "We moved the Supreme Court and high court who then directed the Election Commission to ensure the elections are free and fair and that the candidates are provided security, but I think the anti-social elements working at the behest of TMC do not understand the orders of the High Court, Supreme Court, or the Election Commission," Vijayvargiya said. "BJP will again move High Court tomorrow and raise this issue. We have collected the footage and have even submitted a plea in the Court that we were not allowed to submit nomination. We will show the clippings to President on how democratic rights of the people are under attack in West Bengal" he added.
Apart from the death of one BJP worker in the clashes at Birbhum earlier in the day, Vijayvargiya said the whole state was in turmoil and chaos throughout the day, and clashes happened in over 526 places, 11 BJP officers were vandalized, and over 500 party workers were injured. "Police were mute spectators to the TMC goons' acts and only arrested BJP workers," he said.
Earlier, TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee had also alleged that five workers of his party had been killed in the run-up to the panchayat elections and that the opposition parties were behind the violence witnessed during filing of nominations. "Because they did not have a support base, they had stirred up unrest in a bid to hold up the elections", Chatterjee remarked.
Both the Congress and Left parties urged the election body to ensure polling is free, fair and peaceful. The commission has to also ensure that the candidates willing to contest are allowed to file their nominations, the parties said.
BJP leader Mukul Roy said his party was not in favour of one-day panchayat polls in the state. "We have said this to the SEC and demanded at least two-phase polls with the deployment of central paramilitary forces," he said.
According to The Indian Express, Chatterjee said the government is ready to hold the elections anytime. “Our main concern is that the people are not harassed during the summer and the panchayat elections are not held during the Ramzan month and monsoon. Our priority is to expedite the development process initiated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” he said, adding that the polls could be held in one day if necessary.
Earlier, on 29 March, the Centre sought the report from the state government over recent reports of violence during Ram Navami processions. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in its communication, has asked the Mamata Banerjee-led state government to send a report on incidents of violence and tension in some districts of the state, and steps being taken to restore normalcy in those areas.
Updated Date: May 01, 2018 09:26 AM