West Bengal routinely faces election violence. Parties attack each other, as well as voters who they think might challenge their reign. While the Chief Minister may be ruling with an iron fist, local mafias and goons seem to be ready to burn, vandalise and brutalise anyone who comes in their way. As time went by, this has become endemic and more violent.
The scenario in West Bengal is no different now during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. There have been reports of violence from Bongaon, Hooghly and Barrackpore seats, where polling is underway for the fifth phase of Lok Sabha elections. At the Bongaon constituency, located near the Indo-Bangladesh border, bombs hurled at police forces injured a TMC worker and a police constable critically.
Poll violence continues in WB
During the fifth phase, Locket Chatterjee, a BJP candidate in Hooghly, accused state police forces of facilitating and encouraging rigging in some booths in Hooghly’s Dhanekhali. The presiding officer in the booth, however, denied the allegation. Meanwhile, media vehicles were attacked by some locals. TMC candidate Prasun Bandyopadhyay was allegedly heckled near a polling booth in Howrah.
Arjun Singh, BJP’s Barrackpore candidate, alleged on May 6 that TMC workers attacked him when he visited a polling booth. Further, there has been reports of BJP agents being chased away from polling stations. “People were not allowed to vote properly and I went there to have a look. I have the right to enter booths but police stopped me and hit me,” Singh alleged.
The Election Commission, which later went on to seek a report from the district administration, said, “We have sought a report from the polling officers posted in these stations. Otherwise, the polling so far has been peaceful.”
Last month, poll violence shook Birbhum, a district near Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Abode of Peace’, Shantiniketan. In Birbhum, where the constituencies of Birbhum and Bolpur were voting last month, men and women armed with bamboo sticks protested for TMC workers allegedly not letting them cast their vote.
Alleging “illegal action of central forces”, the TMC filed a complaint with the Election Commission. In a letter, it wrote, “There were various instances where on instructions of BJP leaders, Central Forces acted in a manner which is not conducive to free & fair elections in WB.”
During the fourth phase, there were reports of clashes between BJP and TMC workers outside a booth is Asansol’s Barabani. This happened following a tiff inside the station between BJP’s Babul Supriyo and polling officials, an Election Commission source told PTI. Babul Supriyo’s car was vandalised.
“I have come here just to see how the polling process is underway, but I found that voters are not being allowed to cast their ballots. Our fight is to establish democracy… It is shameful that I am saying this in a democratic country,” the minister said, as reported by India Today.
Clashes were also reported at Naihati, with allegations of voters being intimidated at Rampurhat in the district. Locals protested in Asansol’s Jemua, asking for central forces to be deployed there.
Meanwhile, the BJP has alleged that the TMC had resorted to rigging and violence to win the elections, and it has demanded re-polling in violence-marred constituencies. TMC continues to maintain that the BJP is conspiring to usurp the Mamata Banerjee government.
“We demand repoll in most of the booths. The way TMC has used goons and state police to rig the elections is condemnable. It is afraid of defeat, that is why the party has unleashed such unprecedented violence,” BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said.
“On all Lok Sabha seats which were having polling today (Monday) have seen widespread violence, including rigging of booths, destruction of EVMs and brutal attacks on BJP candidates. We also seek order for re-polling” said a letter that the West Bengal BJP has written to West Bengal CEO over poll related violence.
TMC, however, maintained that the BJP and the CPI(M) instigated violence during the elections. “The BJP and the CPI(M) beat up our workers during the polls. The people of Bengal will reject these divisive forces,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.
The Logical Indian take
Despite officials and forces monitoring activities in and around polling booths, despite parties claiming that they wish for free and fair elections, poll violence has continued to be a horrid reality in West Bengal. The fact that people are afraid to go to a booth and vote is shameful for the parties contesting the elections. This fear has been created in the minds of people by the parties themselves, by threatening the voters with dire consequences if they do not vote for a particular party.
We, the common people, have the right to choose our own leaders, and parties forcing us to vote for them should be a matter of utmost shame for them. What is important for them to realise is that if they really succeed in keeping the citizens satisfied, if they really work hard for the betterment of society, they would not have to resort to violence and vandalisation to ask for votes.
West Bengal has been making headlines for its poll violence for a long time now. The Logical Indian condemns the inefficiency on the part of those who were supposed to maintain law and order in the state.
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