West Bengal Panchayat Election Marred by Violence and Allegations of Misinformation Campaign

Police and people running

Amidst a backdrop of violence and chaos during the West Bengal panchayat election, the Trinamool Congress has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT-cell head, Amit Malviya, of running a “misinformation campaign” regarding booth capturing. The election, which resulted in 18 deaths and numerous incidents of vandalism and attacks, triggered a war of words on social media between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP, with both parties blaming each other for the unrest. One of the tweets by Malviya included a video alleging that Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, had undermined democracy by rigging the election.

He claimed that stamped ballot papers were found in Netra GP, Booth No-5, under the jurisdiction of Diamond Harbour, which is represented by Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee. The TMC MP Nusrat Jahan refuted these claims, stating that Netra GP falls under the Mathurapur Lok Sabha constituency, not Diamond Harbour, and accused the BJP’s IT cell of spreading propaganda. Debangshu Bhattacharya, the state in-charge of TMC’s new social media cell, also criticized Malviya, calling him an “expert in spreading fake news.” He expressed disappointment at Malviya’s continued dissemination of misinformation. The recent violence during the panchayat election in West Bengal is not an isolated incident.

The state has a history of violent rural elections, such as the 2003 panchayat polls that resulted in a death toll of 76. This year’s election has already claimed 37 lives since its announcement, following a pattern similar to the 2018 panchayat polls when a similar number of casualties were reported. The Election Commission initially resisted the deployment of additional security forces and was even reprimanded by the Calcutta High Court. Given the deep-rooted culture of violence at the booth level in West Bengal’s political landscape, the election watchdog’s competence and seriousness in fulfilling its responsibilities have been questioned.

The results of the panchayat election are set to be announced on July 11, but the Opposition, including the BJP, CPI(M), and Congress, have demanded a repoll at numerous polling booths. The Congress has approached the Calcutta High Court, seeking action against the State Election Commissioner, Rajiva Sinha, who has previously faced criticism from the court for failing to take sufficient measures to prevent pre-poll violence resulting in 19 deaths between June 8 and July 7. The West Bengal panchayat election has been marred by violence, allegations of booth capturing, and a battle of narratives between the TMC and BJP. The tense situation highlights the need for a fair and secure electoral process in the state.


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