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“A festival of death”: Union Minister Pramanik on Bengal panchayat polls

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Cooch Behar (West Bengal) [India]: Coming down heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government over the widespread violence during the panchayet elections in West Bengal on Saturday, Union Minister Nishith Pramanik said the single-phased polls were not a festival of the republic but a festival of death.

Speaking to Media, Pramanik said the Trinamool Congress government will not even put out an accurate official count of deaths that took place acrosss the state since the date for the panchayat polls was notified.

The BJP leader, who hails from North Bengal, said, “This (the deaths and electoral violence) should not have happened. Elections are a festival of the republic but this time, the panchayat elections in Bengal turned out to be a festival of death.

The state government will not even come out with an official data on the number of people who lost their lives since the panchayat elections in Bengal were announced.”

He added that while political violence and clashes during elections were nothing new in Bengal, the scale of violence seen during the polling for the panchayats on Saturday was ‘unprecedented’.

“Several people lost their lives while many more are missing. We don’t know if those missing in light of the violence are even alive.

The way the panchayat elections were conducted this year makes our heads hang in shame. The events today marks a firgettable chapter in the electoral history of West Bengal,” the Union minister said.

Multiple incidents of violence earlier on Saturday cast a long shadow on the conduct of the panchayat polls across the state.

A person received fatal injuries after being hit by a crude explosive in the Phul Malancha polling booth in South 24 Pargana district.

“The person is feared dead but the same hasn’t been confirmed by the doctors as yet. The crude bomb had struck the victim’s head. He was admitted to Basanti rural hospital (in the South 24 Parganas district),” Dibakar Das, the SDPO, said.

In another incident, BJP leader Ajoy Ray claimed that three fellow party workers were allegedly shot at by Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers in Cooch Behar’s Dinhata.

“From the morning our workers were not allowed to enter polling booths. They were beaten up at every place. One woman in the village received a bullet injury on her stomach while one of our workers also sustained a gunshot wound on his chest.

There were instances of bombing and firing as well. Another man got hit by a bullet in his hand. The husband of one of our candidates was shoved to the ground and kicked around,” the BJP leader said.

According to the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly, Suvendu Adhikari, as many as 19 people lost their lives in the violence during the panchayat polls on Saturday.

The figure quoted by the BJP leader indicated a rising toll as, earlier in the day, fellow party member and MP Ravi Shankar Prasad said more than 12 people lost their lives in the clashes that broke out in several areas of the state.

“Bengal is witnessing untamed violence even as votes are being cast for the gram panchayats. More than 12 people have died so far and several more are injured,” the former Union minister said.

Bengal is home to 3,341 gram panchayats and 58,594 panchayat election centres were put together for the polls.

The votes were cast for 63,239 gram panchayat seats, 9,730 panchayat samiti seats and 928 seats at the Zila Parishad level.

The counting of votes will be held on July 11.

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