Bengal Panchayat Elections: Counting today, as Central forces guard the counting centres

11 July, 2023 | Bhavnish Tawar

West Bengal National

After incidents of booth capturing and violence in West Bengal, the counting for votes was conducted in the presence of central forces.

Following a tumultuous month marked by violence resulting in the unfortunate loss of nearly 40 lives, the tallying of votes for the panchayat elections in West Bengal will occur on Tuesday. This critical undertaking will occur at 339 designated centers dispersed throughout 22 districts within the state.

This included 928 members from 22 Zila parishads, 9,730 members from panchayat samitis, and 63,229 from gram panchayats of Bengal. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of the State Congress, addressed a letter to the State Election Commission (SEC) on Monday, expressing concerns over alleged attempts to manipulate the vote-counting process.

The letter highlighted reports received from various sources, indicating preparations to rig the counting centers in Bengal. It claimed that many hooligans and elements associated with criminal activities had gathered to hinder the participation of candidates or agents not affiliated with the ruling party. The letter also drew attention to numerous photographs and videos allegedly capturing tampering, theft, or substitution of sealed ballot boxes.

“The State Election Commission should maintain a high activity level and effectively allocate Central forces. It is imperative to guarantee the safety of all candidates and agents during their travel to the counting location. Furthermore, the counting process must uphold principles of fairness and impartiality without repeating the instances of violence witnessed during the polling on July 8. It is of utmost importance to comply with the orders of the Honorable High Court,” he emphasized.

The ruling party, TMC, also accuses individuals described as “miscreants” have gathered near various counting centers across West Bengal. According to the party’s claims, a BJP leader unlawfully entered the substantial room, where ballot boxes are stored, in Dinhata within the Cooch Behar district.” “Outrageous! Ajoy Roy, a BJP politician, enters the Dinhata High School safely with Central soldiers’ help without remorse.

On the other side, Abhijit Das, the leader of the BIP, claimed that TMC members intended to “capture the counting center” in Bishnupur. Shaukat Molla’s criminals total more than 300. Additionally, they intend to replace the voting machine tonight. I demand the urgent deployment of additional forces, especially Central forces, close to all counting centers in the South 24 Parganas and Diamond Harbour districts.

They are power-hungry beyond all measure. Their request to deploy Central forces in Bengal was a deliberate action to engage in such dishonest behaviour. They are blatantly using these pitiful strategies since they are aware that the outcome would only be a crushing defeat, the TMC tweeted.

TMC leader Shashi Panja accused the Central troops of “working hand in glove with BIP to create a ruckus” in a tweet.