Kolkata: At least 17 people were killed as Bengal villages went to vote for panchayat polls on Monday, making it the bloodiest day of the state’s tradition of violence-ridden election narratives. The first lives lost were that of a couple burnt in their sleep in South 24-Parganas’ Kakdwip, hours before polling began.
Miscreants intimidated voters in queue, snatched ballot boxes and singed ballot papers, opened fire at political rivals, hurled bombs at cops and forced poll officials to leave booths, raising questions over the wisdom of the State Election Commission’s decision to hold the poll on a single day after the 2013 rural election saw a vote spread over five days.
Monday’s toll was easily the highest 24-hour count in Bengal’s recent electoral history, though state officials argued that the figure was less than that seen during the 2013 panchayat poll, when 24 people died on the five days when polling took place. The SEC took cognisance of just six poll-related deaths and took recourse to the measuring tape to conclude that six others were “non-poll deaths” as they occurred more than 200 metres away from booths.
Opposition parties hit the street against the SEC. CPM staged a demonstration in front of the SEC office and BJP knocked on Raj Bhavan’s doors to complain against the poll panel.