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Panchayat poll: Repoll in 572 booths, HC seeks documents on poll deaths

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The State Election Commission (SEC) on Tuesday ordered re-poll in 572 booths in 19 districts following recommendations of the district magistrates.

“Today(Tuesday) we have conducted post-poll scrutiny in many booths on the basis of violence, arsons, snatching of ballot boxes and capturing of booths during yesterday’s rural poll. All sorts of security measures have already been taken in these booths for re-polling,” a commission official said.

It was learnt the commission had received recommendations for re-polling in more than 1000 booths.

“This might be highest ever number of booths for re-polling since 1980 when the first rural polls were held in the state. During the five-phase panchayat elections in 2013, re-polls were held in around 100 booths,” sources in the SEC said.

Interestingly, the commission didn’t order any re-polling at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas, which witnessed violence and killing during the poll. The total percentage of poll was finally put at 82.13, according to the election commission.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee of Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asked the counsel of Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and another counsel to file petitions on yesterday’s panchayat poll violence and death toll with death certificates of the persons killed during polling, FIRs lodged with the police, medical certificates of the injured and all other documents. Newspaper reports are not admissible, it was pointed out.

READ: Bengal panchayat polls: Six dead, Derek O’Brien says BJP, CPI(M) behind violence

Appearing for PDS, Sabyasachi Chatterjee submitted some polling officers had been attacked. According to some videos circulating in the social media a few polling officers had said that they hadn’t been given any security, it was submitted.

The state government was even distinguishing between deaths on the polling day and the preceding day, Chatterjee submitted. Contempt petitions should be issued against concerned police officers as their inaction on the polling day amounted to intervention with the administration of the court’s order.

Both the PDS counsel and Rabi Shankar Chattopadhaya, appearing for another petitioner, Anindyasundar Das, sought compensation. A complete investigation into the violence which marred the panchayat election was also sought.

The state Congress unit is also likely to file a contempt petition against state election commissioner, director general of police and additional director general of police.

READ: West Bengal panchayat elections | Facts, figures and everything else you need to know

Since the Division Bench had directed that a free, fair and peaceful poll be held, the Congress contends the court’s order has been violated, Pratip Chatterjee, who had appeared for Congress in several petitions said during the day.

“We will file a separate petition naming officers responsible for the breakdown of law and order,” Chatterjee said. After all, it was the PCC chief, Adhir Chowdhury who had first moved court apprehending law and order problems, he said.

The Congress and the CPI-M squarely blamed the Trinamul leadership and the administration for the violence during the poll and after. Leader of the Opposition Abdul Mannan said the administration had downplayed the violence.

Such was the desperation of the ruling party to defeat the Opposition parties in 100 per cent seats, Mr Mannan alleged, that about 34 percent panchayat seats had gone uncontested.

Fascist tendency of the ruling party activists come to the surface during elections, the leader of the Left Front Legislative party Sujan Chakraborty alleged.

Instead of defeating a political opponent in an election, the ruling party activisits are acustomed to drive out the representatives of the Opposition in the polling stations.