Battleground Bengal: Death, protests and violence in the run up to first phase

BJP leader found dead, two TMC party workers killed in separate incidents as the state gears up for phase one of polling

Bengal Election
Representation Image | Reuters

A BJP leader was found hanging in a veterinary hospital in Cooch Behar on Wednesday. Then, two party workers of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) were killed in two separate incidents in South 24 Parganas and West Burdhawan respectively. Meanwhile, bodies of two BJP supporters were found in a banana orchard in Nadia! All this just before phase one of an elaborate eight phase assembly election is about to begin in West Bengal.

50-year-old Amit Sarkar, the president of BJP’s Dinhata town mandal committee was found hanging inside the premises of a veterinarian hospital, reported The Telegraph. This sent the entire Cooch Behar unit of the party into a rage spiral, as they first took to the streets and then ransacked at least seven offices of TMC in and around town, turning the region into a virtual battlefield. His party men alleged that Sarkar was killed by rival TMC members, with fingers being pointed at local TMC MLA Udayan Guha. BJP MP Nitish Pramanik who is contesting from the Dinhata assembly seat has now demanded a CBI inquiry. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has directed a special police observer to visit the spot and submit a report.

In another incident the bodies of two painters, 25-year-old Pratap Burman, and 36-year-old Dipankar Biswas, were found in a Banana orchard of Methirdanga village in Santipur in Nadia district. Once again, the BJP pointed fingers at the TMC saying that the dead men were BJP supporters but had been killed by the TMC to “unleash panic”. While BJP party workers blocked roads and held demonstrations outside the local police station, BJP MP Jagannat Sarkar who is contesting the assembly election from Santipur visited the deceased’s families.

Meanwhile, in Belegachi in Baruipur, 59-year-old Ruhul Amin Midda succumbed to his injuries in hospital. He had been critically injured in clashes with members of Indian Secular Front (ISF) on Wednesday and rushed to the sub-divisional hospital where he was declared dead on Thursday. Six ISF activists have been arrested in connection with Midda’s death so far. The TMC and ISF are trading barbs and allegations over what led to the clashes.

Another TMC worker, 39-year-old Sarwan Chowdhury was killed after an explosion at his home in Jambad village in Andal on Thursday morning. Based on preliminary investigations, police say Chowdhury and two others were making crude bombs, and one of the devices exploded accidentally. However, as per The Telegraph, TMC leaders insist that it was a cooking gas cylinder that exploded.

Polling for the first phase of assembly elections commences on March 27. This will cover 30 constituencies across five districts: Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur (Part 1) and Paschim Medinipur (Part 1). These are areas with a significant Adivasi (indigenous) population.

There are a total of 294 constituencies. The TMC is contesting 290 seats and has offered three to its alliance partner the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Bimal Gurung). The BJP is contesting 293 seats and has offered one seat to its alliance partner All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) led by Ashutosh Mahto.

The Congress lead alliance includes CPM, CPI and ISF. While Left parties are contesting 137 seats, Congress is contesting 91 seats, and the ISF is contesting 28.

There is heavy deployment of central paramilitary forces in the state. The election commission has also deputed special election observers to keep a close eye on what is undeniably the most hotly contested electoral battle this year.


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