THE West Bengal state election commission (SEC) Sunday postponed the counting of votes in the election to Bidhannagar and Asansol municipal corporations following allegations of large-scale violence, even as opposition parties demanded fresh polls.
“We have decided to postpone the counting of votes,” state election commissioner S R Susanta Upadhyay told mediapersons at the SEC office here.
The SEC also postponed counting of votes for elections held in Bally under Howrah municipal corporation. The counting of votes for the elections held Saturday was to be conducted on October 7.
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While Bidhannagar is in the eastern flank of Kolkata, Howrah is on western side across the river Hooghly.
Upadhyay said the SEC would go through reports and video footages of violence from its own sources and also news channels before taking any further decision.
On Opposition parties’ demand that the elections be countermanded and fresh polls held, Upadhyay said, “There is no question of ordering repolls at this juncture. We will take a decision after going through reports and video footages”.
The SEC announcement come amid a blame game that has ensued between the Trinamool Congress and the Opposition parties with the ruling party blaming the CPM for the violence
“The CPM is responsible for the violence. It was a planned attack owing to desperation as it knows that it will be defeated in the elections,” senior TMC leader and state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
Alleging that CPM leader Gautam Deb, a former minister, had threatened to bring in “four to five thousand outsiders” for the polls held Saturday, Mukherjee said, “It is the CPM, which instigated violence.”
The CPM, however hit back terming the polls to both the civic bodies as farce while demanding a “total re-poll” and the state election commissioner’s resignation for “failing” to do his duty.
“We want a total re-poll in all booths in the two municipalities in view of the rampant corrupt practices and violence. The whole election process has been rendered a farce. The SEC has the responsibility to hold the election in free and fair manner, but it has failed in its duty,” CPM politburo member Mohd Selim said.
Making a similar demand, state BJP president Rahul Sinha said, “Votes were looted in all booths with the ruling party unleashing terror among genuine voters”.
Sinha, who sat on a dharna in front of the SEC office Sunday evening, demanded that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee give up her home (Police) portfolio, alleging that the state police force had not acted to ensure peace and fair elections.
The Congress, too, launched a massive demonstration outside the SEC office Sunday, alleging that poll panel had played into the hands of the ruling party by not calling in additional deployment of central forces.”This is nothing short of state sponsored terrorism. If there are unknown people interfering in a peaceful and fair elections, then why aren’t the law enforcement agencies taking action? The only answer possible is that they are being controlled by the state government. The SEC failed in its duty,” said Arunabha Ghosh, a former party MLA.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, “The postponement of counting gives recognition to what we have been saying about large scale violence in yesterday’s elections. But our demand for holding fresh elections has not been fulfilled,” Chowdhury said.
Rabin Deb, senior CPM leader alleged that he had informed the SEC and the police about the influx of “outsiders”, but to no avail. “I had informed both the authorities about the outsiders coming in. I even told them about places where they were coming from and who had sent them. But they took no action and simply watched as the violence unfolded,” Deb alleged.
While the opposition parties have alleged that large number of outsiders had been brought in to intimidate and scare off voters, the ruling Trinamool Congress has denied any such activity by the party. “As the ruling party we will never want any breach of peace,” Partha Chatterjee, TMC secretary-general, had said Sunday.
A number of journalists covering the elections were manhandled and a few of them had to be admitted to hospital Sunday. Leaders of both opposition and the ruling party visited the injured journalists in hospitals this morning.
The polls in these two municipal corporations are considered important as these are the last key elections in the state before it goes to Assembly polls next year.
With PTI inputs