Clashes Over Local Polls in West Bengal: Seven Killed and Dozens Injured

Clashes Over Local Polls in West Bengal: Seven Killed and Dozens Injured

Dozens more injured in state notorious for political violence during polls to elect local leaders

On the outskirts of Kolkata, paramilitary personnel keep watch at a polling station’s entrance during the local elections for West Bengal.

In recent incidents of clashes over local polls in West Bengal, India, at least seven people lost their lives, and numerous others sustained injuries. West Bengal has a history of political violence during election campaigns, and these unfortunate events highlight the volatile nature of the region’s political landscape.

India’s Ruling Party’s Efforts in West Bengal

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party, has been diligently working to establish a foothold in West Bengal. Traditionally governed by the Communist Party, the state has presented a challenging terrain for the BJP to expand its influence beyond its Hindi-speaking strongholds in the northern regions of the country.

Fierce Contest for Municipal Leaders

Currently, voters in West Bengal are participating in a fiercely contested election to select municipal leaders. With over 200,000 candidates vying for positions across the state, the polls have ignited intense competition and political fervor.

Loss of Lives and Injuries in Election-Related Violence

According to Jawed Shamim, a senior officer in West Bengal’s police force, the clashes have resulted in the tragic loss of seven lives, with several others wounded in different villages across the state. Among the deceased, five belonged to the ruling Trinamool Congress party, while the remaining two were associated with the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal.

Violence Erupts: Street Fights and Ballot Box Incidents

Local broadcasters have aired distressing footage showing rival party workers engaging in street fights, wielding batons, and engaging in acts of aggression. Additionally, instances of ballot boxes being snatched and set on fire outside polling stations have been recorded. These distressing visuals highlight the intensity and animosity prevalent during the electoral process.

Heavy Security Presence and Seized Crude Bombs

To maintain order and prevent further violence, certain voting booths witnessed a significant deployment of paramilitary troops. The presence of security personnel aimed to deter any potential escalation of confrontations. Furthermore, police officials reported the seizure of over 200 crude bombs, which are often used in West Bengal elections to intimidate or harm voters.

Vote-Rigging Complaints and Instances of Violence

Rajiv Sinha, the state election commissioner, disclosed that his agency received more than 1,300 complaints related to vote-rigging, interference at polling booths, and sporadic incidents of violence. While acknowledging the challenges, Sinha expressed that the polling process cannot be deemed entirely peaceful due to these issues.

Political Landscape in West Bengal

Since 2011, West Bengal has been under the governance of Mamata Banerjee, the leader of the Trinamool Congress. Her victory marked the end of the Communist-led administration that had ruled the state for three decades. The current political scenario reflects the ongoing battle for power and the fierce competition between various political parties.

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