After several incidents of violence were reported during the first three phases of Assembly elections in West Bengal, leaving one person dead and several injured, the Election Commission has vowed to take strict action against the perpetrators of the violence and said it would ensure free and fair polling in the remaining three phases.
Opposition parties in West Bengal have accused the incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) government of unleashing violence in the state. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has written a letter to the Election Commission (EC) apprising it of the atmosphere of “violence” and “intimidation” across several Assembly constituencies in West Bengal. Fuad Halim, a senior CPI(M) leader, has termed the incidents of violence as a sign of “desperation” of the TMC government to come back to power. Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, he said, “Violence is part and parcel of the game plan of the TMC. They know they would be losing this election and thus they are resorting to violence to terrorise the people of Bengal.”
He has also blamed the EC for not being able to fulfill its promise of ensuring peaceful elections. “What the EC has assured (people) and what it is doing is very different. TMC goons are out in the open, terrorising people in villages and not allowing voters and opposition parties to vote. The EC has failed to exercise area domination, including patrolling of Central forces in sensitive areas and confidence-building measures,” Halim added.
“Despite efforts by the EC, the situation on the ground does not seem to be improving, and much more needs to be done by the EC to ensure that free and fair elections are held in the state in an atmosphere free of fear and intimidation. We have brought to light several incidents and we hope the EC will act against them,” said Omprakash Mishra, general secretary of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.
However, the EC has accused the regional media channels of “fabricating data” on reports of violence and termed several of these incidents as “minor incidents”. Sources within the EC said that the Commission is taking due care to ensure peaceful elections. The EC is ensuring that Central forces work on the ground round-the-clock to help build confidence among the voters so that people are able to vote without fear, they said. Dibyendu Sarkar, Additional Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal, told The Sunday Guardian: “We have made adequate arrangements to see that no untoward incidents happen. Despite this, there has been several reports of violence. We are pro-actively reacting to all complaints that are being received. The EC will ensure that an environment conducive of free and fair polling is created in the state and incidents of violence do not occur.”