Soon after he tried to play down the violence in the ongoing West Bengal panchayat elections, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Derek O’Brien accused news agency Asian News International (ANI) of “spreading rumours” and accused the media organisation of acting at the behest of “their bosses in Delhi”.
“Why is @ANI spreading rumours and amplifying a few, sporadic, local incidents?” O’Brien was quoted as saying in a tweet posted from the official Twitter handle of the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC).
“We learn that local ANI reporters and stringers getting direct instructions from their bosses in Delhi to shame #Bengal. Agenda driven news-gathering: Derek O’Brien,” the tweet reads.
Why is @ANI spreading rumours and amplifying a few, sporadic, local incidents? We learn that local ANI reporters and stringers getting direct instructions from their bosses in Delhi to shame #Bengal. Agenda driven news-gathering: Derek O’Brien #PanchayatElection
— AITC (@AITCofficial) May 14, 2018
O’Brien’s charge comes on the day when six people were killed and many others, including five journalists, injured in violence across the state.
Of the six killed, three were from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) while one each belonged to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and TMC.
Speaking to ANI, BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain condemned O’Brien’s accusation against the news agency.
Earlier today, O’Brien had alleged that both the BJP and the CPI(M) had joined hands with Maoists to unleash the violence in the state. He had also dismissed the intensity of the violence by comparing it with the days of the CPI(M) rule.
“To all ‘newborn’ experts on Bengal #PanchayatElections in State have a history. 400 killed in poll violence in 1990s in CPIM rule. 2003: 40 dead.Every death is a tragedy,” he wrote.
“Now closer to normal than earlier times.Yes, few dozen incidents. Say,40 out of 58000 booths. What’s %age ?” he added.
There were reports of ballot boxes being set on fire and booth capturing at some places. Bombs were also reportedly hurled at some places, including at cops in Uluberia.
The Left front has claimed that two of its supporters were charred to death in a fire last night at Namkhana in 24 Parganas South district. It has been alleged that TMC supporters set their house on fire.
Voting was stopped at a polling station in Murshidabad after ballot papers were thrown into a pond following a clash between TMC and BJP workers.
In a related incident, West Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh was caught on camera slapping a BJP polling agent in Natabari, prompting the saffron party to demand his immediate arrest. Ghosh defended himself saying the BJP worker was escaping with a ballot box.