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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Assaults on opposition leaders, fake votes, violence sum up the Kolkata civic polls

The Trinamool Congress might have gained control of the Kolkata civic polls by winning 134 seats out of 144, its victory, however, is not unquestionable. Allegations of massive rigging have been leveled by the BJP against the ruling party with multiple accounts of vote forgery, arm-twisting political opponents, harassing the Leader of Opposition, and voting malpractices coming to the fore. While Mamata Banerjee celebrates a “landmark” victory, the West Bengal BJP has called the election a farce alleging that the city police failed in conducting ‘peaceful’ elections.

Complaints from the saffron camp had started pouring in on December 19 when the BJP alleged that 8 of their MLAs were held up in a hostel till 5 PM and were not allowed to attend scheduled meetings. The party accused Kolkata Police of not allowing its legislators to exit the government’s MLA hostel by locking its main gate. 

Again, five-time Councillor Meena Debi Purohit who was the BJP candidate from Ward no 22, alleged that she had been physically assaulted by goons of the ruling party and showed how her blouse was torn by TMC cadres. Despite section 144 being imposed in the area, 100s of TMC cadres had gathered near the polling booth and were chanting slogans of “Mamata Banerjee Zindabad”. She further claimed that the voters were not allowed to cast their votes. 

One of the tallest BJP leaders in the state was not spared the state-sponsored harassment either. Suvendu Adhikari’s Saltlake residence, which lies beyond the KMC area, was shockingly cordoned off by a massive contingent of RAF joined with police officials. The LOP was holding a meeting at his house with 20 MLAs and several other leaders of the BJP. They were given no clear reason as to why the house was cordoned off by the Bidhanagar police led by the Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Later, the BJP MLAs led by Suvendu Adhikari met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and shared the details of the incident. “We were prevented by police as we came out of my house where I was holding a meeting. Police have no right to prevent us from going to Kolkata. Bidhannagar Police has no role and this is not the jurisdiction of Kolkata Municipal polls. My residence is in the Bidhanagar Municipality area and the police have no right to stop us,” Adhikari said.

On December 20, BJP MLA Agnimitra Paul and Suvendu Adhikari along with other BJP leaders staged a sit-in protest at the WB State Election Commissioner office. The MLA took to Twitter to share how democracy had been “BOMBED MOLESTED & MURDERED” and emphasized the need for its immediate restoration. She also stated that they will continue to fight for their rights.

With the TMC, flexing its muscles, episodes of violence that had trailed the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls throughout the day had also left several members of the opposition seriously injured. Injured candidates include CPIM’s Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, who is unable to walk, Congress candidate Rabi Saha from Ward 16, who was not only assaulted but also stripped in public and the act was recorded in video and 40-year-old BJP candidate Rajarshi Lahiri who was rushed to hospital after sustaining severe injuries. “I caught a false voter and also called the police several times to disperse mobs outside a polling station. I was assaulted twice, once while I was on Facebook Live showing the miscreants following me,” said the BJP candidate from ward 86.  

In another incident, a voter found that his vote had already been cast at the booth. When he demanded an explanation on how can his vote be cast and wanted to use the tender vote option, the officials tried to pacify him by saying that he may vote on any other voter’s name. Another viral video showed that the personnel at a polling booth covering the CCTV camera with a paper when mayhem broke out at the booth. 

Apart from these, many fake voters with counterfeit voter ID cards were nabbed at ward no 45 by Congress’s Santosh Pathak. Allegation of fake voters casting had surfaced from ward no 87 as well. Visuals of physical confrontation involving Kolkata Police and TMC-backed goons have also emerged from various parts of the city.  

Congress and the Communists, giving the same specifics as BJP, have demanded a repoll. However, no action has been taken by the election commission and the TMC matriarch continues to revel in her continuous victory. 

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