KOLKATA: Polls-related violence in India‘s West Bengal has resulted in the tragic loss of at least 10 lives over the weekend, disrupting the ongoing election in the state where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party aims to clinch power following their defeat in 2021.
As a result of the clashes between political rivals that obstructed the rural governing council elections, around 700 voting booths were set to reopen on Monday, according to Nilanjan Shandilya, an official from the state election commission.
Since the announcement of polls on June 8, sporadic violence has gripped the eastern Indian state. As per media reports, incidents such as political rivals shooting at each other, the throwing of crude bombs at voters, and the obstruction of access to voting booths have remained prevalent.
The state election commission has received reports of 10 deaths during Saturday’s voting, Shandilya said.
Media reports put the toll higher. The Indian Express daily said there had been at least 20 election-related deaths as of Monday. State police declined to comment on the fatalities.
Political violence has long dogged the industrial state of West Bengal, which for years was a communist stronghold until the current Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) party rose to power in 2011.
The TMC currently has a majority in the rural council, called panchayats, but faces a challenge from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking to make inroads after losing the state assembly elections there in 2021.
“Political opponents did not have anything to offer to counter our development initiatives. That’s why they unleashed violence against our party workers,” said Shantanu Sen, a spokesperson for the TMC.
Dilip Ghosh, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said the state government had failed to maintain security. “The state administration has totally failed to contain violence and bloodshed,” he said.
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