Amidst an atmosphere of violence and fear, seven civic bodies in the state will go to polls on Sunday.
Elections will be held for Durgapur Municipal Corporation, Dhupguri Municipality, Buniadpur Municipality, Coopers’ Camp Notified Area, Nalhati Municipality, Panskura Municipality and Haldia Municipality. Besides, by-election will be held for two wards — Champdani Municipality (ward 12) and Jhargram Municipality (ward 7).
Being the largest civic body among the seven, all eyes will be on Durgapur Municipal Corporation and how the West Bengal State Election Commission conducts the polls this time. The opposition parties, however, expressed apprehension on the increasing political violence in the poll-bound civic areas and held the ruling Trinamool Congress responsible for intimidating voters and polling agents. The Opposition said that it has lost confidence in the state election commission after it allegedly turned the previous civic polls held for seven municipalities in May into a farce.
The BJP alleged that there were signs that the Trinamool would intimidate voters during polling. “The ruling party will try to repeat what it did in the previous civic polls. It has already created an atmosphere of terror in poll-bound civic areas and it will try to intimidate voters. If people are allowed to cast their votes then the Trinamool will not get its desired result,” state BJP vice-president and party’s election observer for Durgapur Municipal Corporation Subhas Sarkar told The Sunday Express.
In the previous civic polls held in May, the Trinamool Congress had won four municipalities in West Bengal – one in Darjeeling hills and three in the plains — while Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) won three civic bodies in the hills, including Darjeeling. The election to the seven civic bodies was marred by unprecedented violence which left several people injured. The Opposition had dubbed the polls as farce and had said the West Bengal State Election Commission failed to discharge its constitutional duties.
CPM leader and former MLA Gouranga Chatterjee told The Sunday Express that his party workers will protest in Durgapur civic area if the Trinamool indulges in electoral malpractice or intimidate voters.
“We are worried that Trinamool workers will prevent voters from visiting polling stations. A large number of outsiders has come to Durgapur area to foment trouble on the polling day. All hotels and lodges are booked by these outsiders. We will ensure people are able to exercise their franchise because the state election commission and the police will not do anything to ensure that. Free and fair polls cannot be held with the help of state police,” Chatterjee said.
The ruling party, however, denied all the allegations and said that polls would be held peacefully. “The Opposition is crying foul. Our workers will ensure that people are able to go to polling stations and cast their votes. People are with us and their votes will be in our favour,” said a senior Trinamool leader. On Sunday, the election will be held between 7 am and 5 pm. The counting of votes will be held on August 17. About 148 wards in these seven civic bodies will go to polls.