Civic elections in West Bengal take place amid allegations of widespread violence and malpractice, BJP calls for 12-hour bandh

Elections for 108 civic bodies across West Bengal were held on February 27 amid allegations of widespread violence and electoral malfeasance. Not only were opposition candidates reportedly attacked by members of Congress from the ruling Trinamool, but ordinary voters were also targeted and many complained of being forcibly prevented from voting. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called for a 12 noon bandh on February 28 to protest the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

Despite assurances from West Bengal State Election Commissioner Saurabh Das to hold free and fair elections, the state has witnessed violence in a number of districts. In most cases opposition parties namely BJP, Congress and Left claimed to have been the victims of Trinamool attacks but in several places like Dhuliyan in Murshidabad and Dalkhola in Uttar Dinajpur, candidates Independents who had left Trinamool after being refused tickets clashed with ruling party workers.

Thieves rampaged in different parts of the state, damaging private and public property, threatening and attacking workers and opposition voters. Even journalists were not spared and several journalists were beaten up while covering the elections. Even though the director general of police, Manoj Malaviya, claimed that the elections were held “very peacefully, without major incidents of violence or serious injury”, video footage from different parts of the state seemed to tell a different story. . According to Malaviya, 797 people were placed in “preventive detention” and 51 were arrested during the day.

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in a scathing critique of the state government said: “There were no elections today, it was a war, the whole administration siding on the side of the ruling party. Addressing the state’s election commissioner heavily, the governor said, “He [Saurabh Das] has practically abdicated its constitutional responsibility. It should be recalled that in consideration of Bengal’s history of violence in local elections, in 2013, then State Elections Commissioner Meera Pandey petitioned the Supreme Court to order the deployment central forces for the Panchayat elections, much to the chagrin of the ruling party. Trinamool Congress. This time too, the opposition parties had demanded central forces for the elections, but the State Election Commission decided to trust the West Bengal Police.

Allegations of intimidation by Trinamool workers had surfaced as soon as the election dates were announced. In fact, by February 10, the day after the nominations were filed, Trinamool had already won three civic bodies without contest: Sainthia in Birbhum district, Budge Budge in southern 24 Parganas and Dinhata in Cooch Behar.

BJP calls for a bandh

The opposition parties all spoke with one voice in condemning the violence allegedly perpetrated by Trinamool. The BJP, which emerged as the main opposition in the state after the 2021 assembly elections, called for a 12 p.m. bandh on February 28 for “restoration of democracy in the state of West Bengal.” Even the Congress did not object to the BJP’s call. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, President of the State Congress and leader of the Lok Sabha party, said: “There should be protests…. If we had been able to call a bandh, we would have done the same as well. Rabin Deb, a top leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), described the elections as a “shameful chapter for democracy in West Bengal”.

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