The much-hyped three-tier Panchayat election in West Bengal began at 0700 hours this morning under a massive security blanket.An estimated 12 per cent of more than three crore electorate in 20 districts of West Bengal cast their ballots in first two hours even as reports of sporadic violence reached here from various places despite long queues were seen from early morning.
A Jalpaiguri report said ballot box was set on fire at Shikarpur’s Tetultalla booth, besides booth jamming at Dhupguri, suspension of polling in some other booths due to darkness following heavy rains in several parts of north Bengal were reported.
Election to the three-tier panchayat system is being conducted across 20 districts of West Bengal on Monday amidst apprehensions over security preparedness in the state.
Miscreants also poured waters into the ballot boxes at Patharghata at Rajarhat in city’s eastern part to protest booth jamming in presence of security personnel.
In Panskura of East Medinipur armed miscreants virtually took control at Gobindapur’s 47 booth in presence of armed security personnel depriving the genuine voters of casting ballot.
A report from Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas said a couple, identifed as Debprasad Das (47) and Usha Das (42), said to be active CPI(M) members, were burnt alive late last night at Bhudakahli.
According to the SEC officials, today’s elections are being held in 621 zilla parishads and 6,157 panchayat samitis, besides 31,827 gram panchayats.
Around 1,500 security personnel from Assam, Odisha, Sikkim and Andhra Pradesh are in the state to reinforce security arrangements for the polls.
They will aid around 46,000 personnel of the state police and 12,000 of the Kolkata Police, while the state government would use close to 2,000 security personnel from the departments of excise, prison and forests in manning the booths, a senior SEC official said.
Amid reports of pre-poll violence from various districts, the situation on the ground remained tense. Security forces on Sunday conducted route marches in various parts of the state as part of security arrangements.
The murky Panchayat poll is taking place at a time when all the major political parties, ruling TMC, and Opposition BJP, CPI(M) and Congress girding up their loins for 2019 Lok Sabha poll .
Although top leaders of all parties campaigned for the polls, Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refrained from it. She appealed to the people to vote in favour of the development ushered in by her government.
Expressing concern over violence that gripped parts of Bengal, Ms Banerjee has appealed for peace over the panchayat polls. She has assured that her administration is fully ready to tackle any kind of unpredictable situation.
“I am appealing the people of Bengal not to trust over any fake news. Be Alert and Aware. Earlier the fake news video triggerd trolled,” the chief minister said. Polling began at 0700 hours and would end at 1700 hours. If necessary repoll will be held on May 16.
The counting will take place on May 17.