WB panchayat polls to be held tomorrow amid tight security

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the media at CM's office in Howrah

This election is rather one last opportunity for the communists in the state as the party has witnessed a sharp decline in its voting percentage. The counting will take place on 17 May. At least six people have been killed in poll-related violence in West Bengal.

A CPI-M worker and his wife were killed after their house was set on fire in South 24 Parganas.

Incidents of violence were reported from across the state.

Referring to the arrest of Trinamool Congress leader Arabul Islam in connection with the killing of a supporter of an independent candidate in Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district, Banerjee said the police took action, irrespective of the "political colour" of the person.

In Dinhata area of Cooch Behar, 20 voters were injured after clashes broke out between two groups outside a polling station. In North Bengal district too there were instances of violence from Shikarpur in Jalpaiguri, in the Alipurduar district among other places. Televisions channels showed the minister purportedly slapping the person.

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In Keshpur area of West Midnapore district, police resorted to lathi-charge and chased people who were allegedly trying to intimidate voters. Amid the rising incidents of violence, a video of BJP worker being slapped by TMC minister Rabindra Nath Ghosh has been doing the rounds on the Internet.

In Birpara, alleged TMC workers bar voters from entering Booth No. 14/79. Strict security arrangements have been made for the polls, and about 1,500 security personnel have been deployed from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh. As panchayat polls get underway, many incidents of violence have been reported from different pockets of the state.

According to West Bengal SEC (State Election Commission) sources, of the 48,650 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 16,814 were uncontested and of the 9,217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis, 3,059 were uncontested.

CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury today said the West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) will be seen as complicit in the ruling Trinamool Congress' "project of destroying democracy" if it does not act to restore faith in the electoral process.

On the other hand, Trinamool termed these allegations baseless and appealed voters to vote for development.

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