A day after a Congress activist was killed in Khragram, Murshidabad, allegedly in the hands of Trinamul Congress-sheltered miscreants on the very first day of filing of nominations of Bengal panchayat polls, reports of political clashes continued to pour in from different parts of the state raising serious apprehensions of a rerun of the previous edition of violence-marred rural polls in 2018.
Almost all Opposition parties, including the BJP, Left and Congress, alleged that their candidates were attacked, threatened and blocked from filing nominations by Trinamul musclemen.
Political scuffles were reported from Birbhum, Murshidabad, Bankura and both Burdwan districts. Police resorted to lathi-charge in some of these areas to disperse clashing mobs.
A five-member team of the Bengal unit of BJP, led by party president Sukanta Majumdar, submitted a memorandum to Governor CV Ananda Bose at Raj Bhavan on Saturday asking for the deployment of central paramilitary forces for the conduct of polls.
The same demand was reflected in the party’s letter to the state election commission which also insisted on the extension of the last date of filing of nominations, permission for filing nominations online and 100 per cent CCTV coverage of the poll process.
In the wake of the Khargram incident, where three Congress workers were also reportedly injured in the alleged TMC-led attack besides one getting killed, Bengal Pradesh Congress chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has also written to the Governor seeking his intervention to conduct the polls under supervision of central forces.
The ruling Trinamul Congress has denied any involvement in the murder of Congress worker Fulchand Sheikh who succumbed to multiple bullet injuries late on Friday evening.
Hours later and some 70 kilometres away from Khargram, police lathi-charged clashing workers of the Trinamul Congress and the Opposition forces of Congress and CPI-M over the submission of nominations in Domkal, Murshidabad.
The area turned to a virtual battlefield two sides resorted to stone pelting on each other. The CPI-M alleged that TMC workers gheraoed the Block Development Officer’s office to prevent them from filing nominations and chased them with stones and sticks when candidates reached the office with nomination forms.
A local TMC leader, Bashir Mollah, was arrested on the spot after police recovered a firearm from his possession.
The BJP alleged that civic volunteers were seen resorting to lathi-charge at Domkal in violation of Calcutta High Court orders to not use such personnel in the poll process.
While district police confirmed that some 15 arrests were made in connection with the incident, the state election commission has sought a report on Domkal violence from the Murshidabad district administration.
BJP leader Saumitra Khan alleged that crude bombs were lobbed at his party workers at Patrasayar in Bankura’s Bishnupur when candidates had reached.
Violence was also reported from the Labhpur block area of Birbhum with the BJP alleging that some 25-30 two-wheeler-borne TMC workers attacked their candidates when they were headed for nomination filing. The attack, the party alleged, was carried out in front of the police who were of little assistance. Several BJP workers were reportedly injured in the incident, some ending up with fractured limbs.
Similar reports of violence were received from Katwa in East Burdwan and Babarani in West Burdwan districts, where CPI-M candidates were allegedly prevented from filing their nomination papers by the TMC.
In a terse response to Mujamdar’s allegation of violence, Trinamul Congress minister Aroop Biswas maintained that he would ensure intimidation-free nominations but would consider the former’s claims as “a mere charade and completely divorced from reality” if he failed to furnish details in support of his claim.
The 2018 rural body polls were marred by reports of large-scale violence that led to at least 25 fatalities and countless injuries with the Opposition alleging that the TMC forcefully prevented them from filing nominations which allows them to win 34 per cent panchayat seats uncontested.
Given the adverse impact which the ruling dispensation suffered in the 2019 general elections in the state which followed the panchayat polls, a re-run of the same experience this time is the last thing that Mamata Banerjee government would want in its run-up to the Lok Sabha polls next year.