Monday, May 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

13 die in Bengal poll violence
Our Correspondent and UNI

Kolkata, May 11
At least 13 persons were killed and 30 others injured today in clashes between supporters of various political parties during the panchayat elections in West Bengal.

Official sources said five persons were killed in Murshidabad district and four in South 24 Parganas district, while two persons were killed in North 24 Parganas and one each in Jalpaiguri and Nadia districts.

Six activists of the CPM, four of the Congress, two belonging to the SUCI and one Trinamool Congress worker were killed in the violence. The DIG of Police, Mr N.C.Ghosh, said at least 75 persons had been arrested for poll-related violence.

Animal Husbandry Minister Anisur Rahman survived an attack when miscreants hurled bombs at him at Ghoramara in Murshidabad district. Mr Rahman escaped unhurt.

Poll clashes occurred mostly in the districts of North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Midnapore, Malda, Hooghly, Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar and parts of South 24 Parganas.

At Khanarhat, near Barrackpore, a CPM supporter was murdered by Trinamool Congress activists while the father of a Trinamool candidate was killed in an attack by CPM workers near Barasat in North 24 Parganas district. At other places, the elections were peaceful, the sources said.

The overall percentage of polling was above 60. At some places it varied from 50 to 65 per cent. Repolling will take place tomorrow in 32 booths in two south Bengal districts and the counting of votes will be done on Tuesday.

Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee claimed that the elections were by and large peaceful. There were, however some sporadic incidents of violence but the police intervened in time and brought the situation under control, he said.

State Election Commissioner A. Sinha said the elections had been free and fair and the percentage of polling was 65. Mr Sinha said he had received a series of complaints against the CPM, mostly from the Trinamool Congress, the Congress, the BJP and some Left Front partners, regarding booth-capturing, intimidation and fake voting, but appropriate action had been taken immediately.

The CPM state secretary, Mr Anil Biswas, alleged that some opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress and the BJP tried to create disturbance but the police and the administration had timely intervened and foiled their attempts. He said the polling was peaceful, free and fair.

Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, however, alleged that the elections were a total farce. The police and the administration allowed booth-capturing by the CPM, she alleged. The WBPCC chief, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, also made similar charges. He demanded repolling in 46 booths.

Accusing the CPM of unleashing state-sponsored terrorism, state BJP president Tathagata Roy demanded that the panchayat elections should be declared null and void and fresh poll be conducted under an “impartial administration.”

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