Updated: July 9, 2021 3:41:36 am
The nomination process for the block panchayat chief elections in Uttar Pradesh was marred on Thursday with reports of largescale violence, firing and allegations of nomination papers being snatched from several districts of the state. While the Opposition parties — the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress — accused the ruling party of indulging in violence and misusing official machinery, the BJP denied the charge and claimed to have won at least 276 of the 825 block pramukh posts unopposed.
Additional Director General (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar told The Indian Express that violence was reported from several districts, including Sitapur, Bahraich, Unnao, Kannauj, Jaunpur, Etah, Basti and Sidharthnagar.
In Lakhimpur Kheri, police filed a molestation case after a video of a woman, who was reportedly a proposer for the SP candidate, being harassed by a group of men became viral on social media.
District Samajwadi Party president Ram Pal Yadav alleged that at first the BJP supporters misbehaved with the woman proposer — the video of which became viral — and then inside the block office, they removed the clothes of the party’s woman candidate.
“Our party-backed candidate had gone to file her nomination papers at the block office. She had a woman proposer with her. When the woman proposer was about to reach the gates of the block office, the BJP supporters stopped her and started misbehaving with her. When the candidate reached inside the premises, one Braj Singh and one Yash Verma of the BJP snatched her purse thinking that her nomination papers were inside it. They even removed our candidate’s sari. She somehow managed to reach the Returning Officer’s chamber and handed over her nomination papers. But several BJP members were already there. They snatched her papers and tore them. Our MLC and others were beaten up and their vehicles were damaged,” the SP leader said, adding that since her nomination papers were torn, she could not file her nomination.
In Sitapur, a person reportedly sustained a bullet injury in firing by a mob, while a policeman was injured in stone-pelting in Bahraich after police personnel used force to disperse a mob.
Sitapur District Magistrate Vishal Bhardwaj said that in Tasmanda block of the district, supporters of two rival candidates clashed, leaving one person injured. So far, four persons have been taken into police custody in connection with the violence, the DM added.
Police in Bahraich said that Samajwadi Party candidate Devendra Singh tried to force his way with his 12 supporters during the filing of nominations in Balha block, leading to a clash. “When they were stopped, the SP candidate’s supporters started pelting stones and abusing police. This led to chaos and constable Rameshwar Tiwari was injured in the melee. An FIR has been filed against five persons associated with the Samajwadi Party,” Bahraich police said.
According to ADG Prashant Kumar, they received reports of untoward incidents in 14 out of the total 825 places till 3 pm.
“The incidents were mostly of violence and snatching of nomination papers, and a majority of them took place away from the nomination centres. At some places, supporters of rival candidates reached the nomination centres at the same time and a scuffle took place. Directions to register FIRs have been issued and strict action will be taken against them,” Kumar said.
Following the reports of violence, the State Election Commission said that the nomination process will continue on Friday. “It will the last date for filing nomination and polling will take place on July 10, wherever necessary. Details orders have been issued from the state headquarters where it is clearly mentioned that all kinds of weapons are prohibited at voting centres. All necessary measures, including deployment of magistrates and police officers and the availability of fire tenders, will be ensured. Videography and drone photography will also be arranged,” the ADG added.
On July 5, the State Election Commission had issued the notification for the elections, for which nominations were to be filed between 11 am to 3 pm on Thursday.
The last date to withdraw the candidature is July 9. Voting will be held on July 10 from 11 am to 3 pm and the counting will be held after that on the same day.
As per fresh instructions issued by the state police, strong barricading will be done within 100 metres of the voting centres on Saturday, and no one will be allowed to enter with a vehicle, weapon or anything deemed objectionable. It added that sufficient deployment of police and enforcement of Covid protocols will be ensured.
Meanwhile, SP president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav accused the ruling BJP of taking law and order hostage in the state. “Anarchy and violence by BJP leaders and workers during nomination for block pramukh posts is nothing but a mockery of democracy. Members of the ruling BJP are openly throttling democracy and the police administration is a mute spectator to it. The block pramukh candidates, who could not submit their nomination papers, should be given another chance, or the entire process should be done afresh,” the SP chief said.
He alleged that former Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey was attacked and his vehicle was damaged in Sidharthnagar. “In Hardoi, the nomination papers of SP leader Rajpal Kashyap was snatched. In Sambhal, Basti, Jhansi, Sitapur, Kanpur, Bulandshahr, Lalitpur, Unnao, Ghazipur, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Deoria, Chitrakoot and Etah, BJP members created hurdles to stop SP-backed candidates from filing their nomination papers. In Bahraich, police beat up party leaders, while in Maharajganj several BJP members snatched nomination papers of an SP candidate. In Kannauj, some journalists covering the nomination filing were held hostage and beaten up,” Akhilesh Yadav said.
He also tweeted the video of the Lakhimpur Kheri incident and with the caption “power-hungry goons of (Chief Minister) Yogi Adityanath”.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit out at the BJP government, saying that democracy was being “ripped off” in the state. Posting a purported video of violence on her Twitter handle, she said that law-and-order has been seriously compromised in UP with incidents of bombing, firing and stone-pelting, snatching of nomination papers, attack on journalists and misbehaviour with women at several places.
State BJP vice-president Vijay Bahadur Pathak, however, denied the Opposition’s charge, saying that the party does not support any kind of violence. “If there has been any violence in districts, the administration will do the needful,” he said.
On the allegations levelled by the SP chief and the viral videos, the BJP leader said the video clips were short and “do not present the entire story”.
“We are making gains in the panchayat elections as we have been working hard since day one. We appointed block coordinators and made people contest, and the results are now starting to show,” Pathak added.
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