Kolkata, West Bengal – In a grim turn of events, the much-dreaded violence that had been anticipated during the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal has unfolded, casting a dark shadow over the democratic process, reports The Hindu. Reports have emerged of attacks on candidates, polling agents, and workers across various locations, with some incidents escalating to a deadly level. Instances of ballot box destruction and pelting have further marred the electoral landscape. Shockingly, the brutal struggle for victory utilizing bombs, gunpowder, and weapons claimed the lives of twelve political workers on the day of the election alone. Since the announcement of the elections, the state has witnessed a total of 34 casualties, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
Worsening the situation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and Left Front had sought the intervention of the High Court, urging the deployment of central security forces to ensure a violence-free electoral process. However, both the state government and the Election Commission vehemently opposed this plea during the court proceedings. Despite their objections, the High Court upheld the request and mandated the deployment of central security forces in all districts. Despite the court’s directive, the police chiefs of these districts failed to effectively deploy these forces in sensitive areas. The Director General of the Border Security Force (BSF) accused Election Commission’s Chief Officer, Rajiv Sinha, of withholding critical information about these sensitive locations despite receiving a formal request.
Contrary to these claims, the truth lies in the fact that the district police are responsible for deploying central security force personnel based on the situation’s demands. The Election Commission merely serves as an informant, providing security forces with information regarding sensitive areas. Surprisingly, the role played by the 70,000 state police personnel in West Bengal has been nothing short of lamentable and disheartening, as they confined themselves to the safety of their rooms amidst the violent upheaval.
On the fateful Saturday, where incidents of violence unfolded, central security force personnel were either absent or were not given instructions by the district administration to take action. Consequently, these dedicated security personnel remained idle and unable to act, as they require explicit instructions from the District Magistrate or Deputy District Magistrate, or when the responsibility for sensitive areas is delegated to them by the District Police. Regrettably, the state government has failed to provide clear directives for the deployment of central security forces, leaving rival factions vulnerable to violent attacks in areas where either the state police or central security forces were absent.
Nevertheless, the underlying cause of such intense election violence within West Bengal remains perplexing. While law and order fall under the purview of the state government, responsibility for these acts of violence continues to be a contentious issue. Even during the tenure of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)-led Left Front government, electoral violence plagued West Bengal, primarily targeting Congress workers. Confrontations between workers from both parties and fatal attacks were not uncommon. However, these incidents were localized to a few constituencies.
Presently, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has assumed the role previously played by the Left Front workers, relentlessly seeking victory by any means necessary. The TMC employs every stratagem, utilizing a mix of favoritism and punishment to defeat their opponents. Previously, Congress refrained from engaging in direct confrontation with the dominant Left Front; however, the scenario has altered, with the BJP, Congress, and Left Front now fiercely contesting against the TMC. This escalation in political rivalry has led to a surge in casualties, painting a somber picture of democracy’s celebration.
The prevailing irony is that those who vehemently denounce a “Pata democracy” are now employing all manner of violent tactics, shattering the sanctity of the electoral process. The loss of life and destruction that has unfolded during the panchayat elections raises serious concerns about the state’s ability to maintain law and order. It is imperative that swift action is taken to ensure the safety of all citizens and the sanctity of democratic principles. As the nation grapples with this tragic turn of events, the people of West Bengal and the nation at large look to the authorities for justice, accountability, and effective measures to prevent the recurrence of such electoral violence.
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