May 18: Twelve people were killed in the last phase of the panchayat polls today — among them a father looking for his only son and a mentally challenged boy who had strayed near a booth — with the highest number of deaths reported from Murshidabad.
Seven people had died in the second phase last week, taking the casualties in this year’s polls to 19.
The CPM said the toll was far lower than the 60 over three days in the last rural elections in 2003.
Murshidabad has been a Congress stronghold but factionalism within the party had prompted the Left to mount a concerted bid to pocket the zilla parishad.
Other than Murshidabad, elections were held today in Birbhum and the five north Bengal districts.
Unlike last time, the CPM had a seat-sharing deal with the RSP in Murshidabad.
The CPM brass were relieved at the absence of clashes between supporters of the party and other front partners, especially the RSP whose supporters were killed during and after the second phase. The polls in Cooch Behar, where the CPM is locked in a bitter struggle with the Forward Bloc, passed off peacefully, too.
Eleven deaths occurred in Murshidabad, while one person was killed in Birbhum. Eight were CPM supporters and three were from the Congress.
During the 2003 polls, too, 11 people were killed in Murshidabad.
According to police, six persons were killed in the Domkol area of Murshidabad, about 250km from Calcutta. “The violence in Domkol is unfortunate,” said home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti.
A Congress supporter, Nazrul Islam, 50, was killed when he was looking for his only son in the queue.
Golam Yazdani, 15, of Ma-dhyagaribpur, who unwittingly went near a booth around 4.30pm, was hit by a bomb and killed on the spot. He was mentally challenged.
Two persons were killed in Panchananpur village of Domkol when Congress and CPM supporters clashed with bombs around 7am over control of a queue at a booth in a primary school.
CPM supporter Hanufa Bewa, 45, the mother-in-law of the party’s panchayat samiti candidate, was killed around 8.30am when Congress supporters hurled bombs at a queue.
Another CPM supporter, Abdul Kader Sheikh, 55, waiting in a polling queue, was killed around noon by a bomb during a clash between CPM and Congress supporters at a booth at a madarsa in Sa- hadiar village.
At Debipur village in the Jalangi area, CPM supporter Susanta Ghosh, 35, was hacked to death by Congress workers inside a party camp around 1pm.
Sheikhdul Sheikh, 24, was killed when bombs he was making in his house exploded at Natundiar village in Lalgola. He was a CPM supporter, too.
Another party supporter, Kabatullah Biswas, 22, died at Behrampore General Hospital tonight. He was injured in a clash with Congress supporters in the Raninagar area.
A gang hurled crude bombs and snatched a ballot box and a police rifle from the Naskarpur Primary School polling booth in Domkol around nine tonight.
Subdivisional police officer Mohan Banshi Halder said officials were preparing to leave the booth after polling when a gang of five attacked them. A dozen crude bombs were hurled, sending the officials and one of the two police constables posted there scurrying for cover.
The .303 rifle was snatched from the other constable, who had fallen.
The miscreants grabbed one of the three ballot boxes and ran. The box was later found about 50 metres away. It had been smashed and the ballot papers torn.