Bengal

Kolkata: Barring some minor incidents in few areas, re-polling for the panchayat elections in 568 booths in 19 districts across West Bengal was held smoothly today with voters exercising their franchise in large numbers in most of the polling stations peacefully.

The State Election Commission, after scrutinising the district observers report about various incidents of violence in the three-tier panchayat elections in Bengal on Monday, had ordered re-polling in altogether 568 booths across 19 districts today under elaborate security arrangements.

According to sources, though some reports of violence and attempts of booth capturing have been coming from some areas, the overall situation was by and large peaceful as voters in most of these (568) booths have decided to cast their ballots under heavy security arrangements.

While no re-polling was ordered in any booth in Jhargram district by the Election Commission in accordance with the observers’ report, maximum number of re-polling were held in North Dinajpur district (73 booths), followed by Murshidabad (63), North 24 Parganas (59), Nadia (55), Coochbehar (52), Malda (49), South Dinajpur (35), Purba (East) Burdwan (28), South 24 Parganas (25), Howrah (18), Hooghly (10), Purulia (7), Bankura (5) and minimum 2 in Alipurduar district among others.

Elaborate security arrangements were made to prevent recurrence of any violence or booth capturing in any of these 568 booths to ensure a free fair and absolutely peaceful re-polling in each of the 19 districts, the sources said.

However, in spite of that reports of some violence have come from a number of booths at Ratua in Malda district and Maheshpur in neighbouring Murshidabad districts in which several people were injured, some of them seriously.

While the villagers, particularly some women, have set up their own resistance group at Sarbarh gram panchayat near Kolaghat in East Midnapore district to prevent any violence by outsiders in any booth, the polling officers in Raigad in North Dinajpur district refused to take part in the process of re-polling in protest against the unnatural death of one of their colleagues last night.

When the local SDPO reached the spot to listen to their demand, he was allegedly heckled by the polling officials who also sat in a dharna. As a result, re-polling was suspended in the town for over two hours before it was resumed.

A number of bombs were also recovered from near a polling station at Sankrail in Howrah district this morning generating huge tension in the area.

It may be recalled that as many as 21 people were killed in the unprecedented violence and booth capturing during Monday’s three-tier panchayat elections in over 38,000 booths in 20 districts drawing nationwide condemnations, including from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for such a bloodbath and the alleged murder of democracy in Bengal.

Among the deceased were not only the innocent villagers but also the supporters of all political parties including the Trinamool Congress, BJP, Congress and the CPM-M. The counting of votes for all the 48,800 odd panchayat seats would be taken up on 17 May.