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West Bengal panchayat election counting on, TMC leading; 42 deaths

PoliticsWest Bengal panchayat election counting on, TMC leading; 42 deaths

West Bengal panchayat election results today; the elections resulted in 42 deaths amid arson and violence.

Amidst heightened security measures, the much-anticipated results of the West Bengal panchayat election, seen as a significant test for both the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, will be declared today. In the wake of multiple incidents of violence throughout the state, the vote counting commenced at 8 am, accompanied by the presence of central forces and the installation of CCTV cameras at all counting centers.

A Summary of the Bengal Panchayat Elections

On Monday, repolling was conducted in 696 booths across 19 districts of Bengal due to reports of deadly violence and booth-capturing incidents during the voting on July 8. By 5 pm, 69.85% of eligible voters had cast their ballots during the repolling.

The death toll due to political violence since the announcement of the three-tier local body polls on June 8 reached 42, with four more fatalities reported on Monday.

The panchayat elections were marred by allegations of vote tampering, leading the State Election Commission (SEC) under the leadership of Rajiva Sinha to order a repoll in affected booths in all but three districts of Bengal.

On July 8, at least 18 people were killed and numerous others were injured amidst widespread allegations of booth capturing, rigging, looting of ballot boxes, assault on polling officials, as well as firing and bomb attacks. The death toll on voting day alone stands at 18, six more than the 12 casualties in the polling day violence of 2018.

Repolling commenced on Monday at 7 am with tight security, including the deployment of at least four central forces personnel in each booth, alongside state police. Voters who were in queues by 5 pm were allowed to cast their ballots, and election officials worked overtime to ensure a smooth process.

According to an SEC official, no major untoward incidents were reported from the districts where repolling took place. A few minor incidents occurred, but they were promptly managed by the police.

Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy expressed that violence and killings are not expected in a democracy but held the State Election Commission responsible. Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to the SEC, urging them to ensure impartiality and a free and fair counting of votes in the presence of central forces, emphasizing the need to ensure the safety of all candidates and agents. He also approached the Calcutta High Court, seeking compensation for victims of poll-related violence and demanding an independent agency probe monitored by the court into the events of Saturday.

The BJP announced the formation of a four-member fact-finding committee, including MP and former Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and MP Dr. Satyapal Singh, to visit the violence-affected areas in West Bengal.

West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose will visit the South 24 Parganas district, including Bhangar and Canning, on Tuesday morning to assess the situation. On Monday, the governor met with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and apprised him of the recent violence in West Bengal.

In 2018, the TMC won 34% of the seats in the panchayat elections without contestation. Similarly, this year, the ruling party has won several seats without facing opposition. The opposition alleged that several candidates were prevented from filing nominations by the TMC cadre.

The NIA arrested seven accused in West Bengal found with electric detonators and explosives seizure case.

(With inputs from agencies)

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