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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Bengal Panchayat polling begins under massive security blanket


Amidst an atmosphere of palpable tension following unbridled pre-poll violence, polling for the three-tier single-phase Panchayat election began at 7 AM on Saturday.

The Gram Panchayats, Panchayat Samitis, and Zilla Parishads are going to poll.

In all, 56.7 million voters would exercise their franchise in 61,636 polling booths across the state to elect candidates for 63,229 Gram Panchayat, 9,730 Panchayat Samiti, and 928 Zilla Parishad seats.

Altogether, 822 companies of central paramilitary forces have been requisitioned to ensure a free, fair, and peaceful poll.

The State Election Commission has designated 4,834 polling booths, or 7.8 per cent of the 61,636 polling booths in the state, as “sensitive”.

Both the ruling Trinamool Congress and the Opposition are trading accusations against each other of booth-capturing and indulging in violence.

Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday passed an order saying the Central paramilitary forces, which are being deployed in phases for West Bengal’s three-tier Panchayat poll, will remain on alert for ten days to avoid post-poll incidents.

High Court double bench, headed by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Uday Kumar passed such directives.

After accepting that the apprehension of the petitioners about the post-poll violence appeared genuine since such incidents had happened in 2018 and 2021 after the declaration of the poll results of the state panchayat poll and state assembly elections, respectively.

“There is an apprehension of post-poll violence, which cannot be brushed aside, given the past experience. We are only concerned with protection of the public at large, and if such violence takes place, it would affect the public. There are chances of post-poll violence as winning candidates might celebrate, etc. Therefore, let the Central forces be deployed for 10 more days after the declaration of results,” the division bench opined.

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