Singh undertook a one-day visit to Odisha during which he addressed two public meetings and workers' meet ahead of the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly polls.
Saturday’s panchayat elections in West Bengal descended into chaos and bloodshed, with the loss of at least 13 lives, triggering a blame game between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the opposition parties. The violence, which saw seven TMC members among the casualties, has intensified political tensions in the state. In a state where Trinamool is in power yet they lost more workers to violence, the Border Security Force has put the ball back in the court of the state government. BSF says, “They didn’t have information about sensitive booths in the Bengal panchayat polls.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) accused the opposition of resorting to violence “in a bid to gain some ground,” asserting that the opposition parties were more prone to aggression during the electoral process. In response, the primary opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), demanded the cancellation of the entire election.
In the wake of the tragedy, the BSF revealed that the West Bengal State Election Commission had not provided crucial information about sensitive polling booths to the central security forces, despite repeated requests. According to a BSF official, the state election commission only shared the numbers of sensitive booths on June 7, but failed to disclose their locations or provide any additional information.
The violent incidents occurred across various districts of West Bengal, including Murshidabad, Cooch Behar, Malda, Parganas, North Dinajpur, and Nadia. Reports of booth capturing, ballot box damage, and assaults on presiding officers further marred the election process. In a tragic incident in Cooch Behar district, a BJP polling agent named Madhab Biswas was shot dead. According to Maya Barman, a BJP candidate, TMC supporters targeted her agent, hurling a bomb that claimed his life, while she managed to escape the assault.
The State Election Commission had set up over 60 thousand polling booths for the elections, covering 3,317 Gram Panchayats, 341 Panchayat Samitis, and 20 Zila Parishads. To ensure the safety of the polls, approximately 59,000 personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and other state police forces were deployed across the state. Additionally, 4,834 sensitive booths were exclusively guarded by CAPFs. Following the completion of the polling process, all ballot boxes were securely stored in 339 strong rooms, with the responsibility of guarding them entrusted to the CAPFs.
The violence also claimed lives in Murshidabad district, where TMC worker Yasin Sheikh fell victim to a suspected bomb attack in the Nazirpur area. Another ruling party worker, Sabiruddin Sheikh, was found dead in an open field in Khargram. The TMC alleged that Sabiruddin was brutally murdered by suspected Congress supporters wielding sharp weapons in Ratanpur Naldip village around 3 am on Saturday.
As West Bengal grapples with the aftermath of the violent elections, the authorities are under pressure to investigate the incidents thoroughly and take immediate steps to ensure the safety of future electoral processes.