With exit polls hinting at a Trinamool Congress win by a narrow margin in the recently-concluded Assembly elections, post-poll violence seems to have escalated across West Bengal.
Incidents of hostilities have been reported from almost all districts, with the maximum incidents at East Midnapore, Burdwan and Howrah.
Officials informed that as many as 17 people have been reported critically injured in clashes across the districts with the exit polls predicting the Left-Congress coalition will have substantial number of seats. Workers of the two coalition partners have also been encouraged to hit back at ruling party supporters.
Senior officials admitted that violence is widespread at East Midnapore, Burdwan and Howrah, where most of the charges are against Trinamool workers.
Nandigram in East Midnapore turned out to be a major flash point, where the body of a CPM cadre, who has been missing since Monday afternoon, was recovered on Tuesday. While district CPM leaders complained that their man was lynched by Trinamool workers, the ruling party has denied any role in the incident and claimed the man was killed for personal reasons.
At Howrah, situation turned tense after posters were found on the door of a local club, threatening to behead three local CPM leaders. Local CPM leaders from various districts said that they have been under threat from Trinamool since polling took place at the district on April 25.
Matters turned worse when the outgoing Trinamool minister Arup Roy said, “We had nothing to do with the poster. If we wanted, CPM cadres wouldn’t have been able to even run campaigns here.” At another part of Howrah, a local realtor, backed by Trinamool, led a group of armed men to attack a local club and tried to vacate the land by firing in the air.
Expressing concerns, CPM state leadership on Wednesday urged Chief Election Commissioner (ECI) Naseem Zaidi, and the state’s Chief Electoral Officer, Sunil Kumar Gupta, “to ensure protection to citizens who are subjected to such barbaric attack because of their participation in the democratic process of casting vote”. State CPM secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra stated that an inability to contain post-poll violence will be considered failure of ECI “in its constitutional obligation”.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh also admitted to similar apprehensions, foreseeing escalated violence in weeks following the results. “We’re already seeing rampant post-poll violence in the state, mainly in South Bengal. The police and administration are reluctant to take action. The change they had shown from third phase of polling seems to be getting shadowed,” he said.
He said that if the police and administration failed to “do their job”, his party will be “provoked” to seek help from Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi and the Central government.
CPM in the dock over bogus voting
On the eve of vote-counting in Kerala, the CPM was left defending charges of bogus voting in Dharmadam in Kannur, with the Congress and ruling coalition leaders launching an offensive against the party, DHNS reports. Considered a traditional stronghold for the party, Dharmadam is the constituency of CPM strongman Pinarayi Vijayan. Video footage retrieved from polling stations showed 21 people, including a woman ward member of the party, voting in more than one polling station.
The video has visuals from five polling stations. The ruling UDF has filed formal complaints along with the video evidence to the Election Commission and chief electoral officer. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president V M Sudheeran and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala also sought action against the wrongdoers. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said there were allegations of bogus voting in other panchayats as well. “It has been proved yet again that the CPM has managed to retain its party villages through violence and bogus voting,” Chandy posted on his official Facebook page.