Nine people kills in Panchayat elections in West Bengal

Nine people were killed in election-related violence in West Bengal since midnight as voting is underway today for the three-tier panchayat polls in the State. Officials said, among those killed were five TMC members, and one worker each of the BJP, CPI(M) and Congress, and the supporter of an Independent candidate. Besides violent clashes that injured several people, ballot boxes were destroyed in at least two polling booths, they added.

The polling began at 7 am in 73,887 seats in the rural areas of the state with 5.67 crore people deciding the fate of around 2.06 lakh candidates. Till 11 am, 22.6 percent voter turnout was recorded. Governor CV Ananda Bose visited different areas in North 24 Parganas district, and met people injured in the violence and interacted with voters.

 Protests were also held in various areas, demanding the deployment of central forces. At least 600 companies of central forces have been deployed for the elections along with around 70,000 State police. Sharing photos on Twitter, BJP State president Sukanta Majumdar alleged that the State Election Commission (SEC) was reluctant to deploy the central forces that were sent to the State.

There are 63,229 gram panchayat seats and 9,730 panchayat samiti seats in 22 districts, while 928 zilla parishad seats in 20 districts as Darjeeling and Kalimpong have a two-tier system with Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and Siliguri Sub-divisional Council at the top. Long queues outside polling booths were seen as early as 6 am with people turning out early amid the intermittent rains.

The ruling TMC is contesting all the 928 seats in zilla parishads, 9,419 seats in panchayat samitis and 61,591 seats in gram panchayats. The BJP has fielded candidates in 897 zilla parishad seats, 7,032 panchayat samiti seats and 38,475 seats in gram panchayats. The CPI(M) is fighting 747 zilla parishad seats, 6,752 panchayat samiti seats and 35,411 gram panchayat seats. The Congress is contesting 644 zilla parishad seats, 2,197 panchayat samiti seats and 11,774 gram panchayat seats.

 The election assumes significance for political parties as it will serve as an opportunity for them to assess their organisational strengths and weaknesses ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, besides broadly outlining the mood of the state after two years of the TMC government's third consecutive term.

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