At least one person died in violent clashes in the Suri area of West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday, the last day for political parties in the state to file nomination papers for the upcoming panchayat elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Trinamool Congress blamed each other for the violence. Both parties claimed that the man who died, Sheikh Dildar, was their supporter, according to The Indian Express. The BJP claimed that Dildar was the general secretary of a minority wing of the party, and the Trinamool Congress claimed that Dildar was their supporter and was killed by outsiders from Jharkhand. The Birbhum Police have not identified the victim yet.
Union minister Babul Supriyo shared a series of videos on Twitter from Asansol, claiming that supporters of the Trinamool Congress had stopped BJP candidates from filing their nominations in Barabani village and also blocked his car.
There were similar clashes in Murshidabad, Malda, East Bardhaman, West Bardhaman, Hooghly, North 24 Paraganas, South 24 Paraganas and East Midnapore districts, according to Anandabazar Patrika. Over most of April, several clashes were reported between the BJP and Trinamool Congress workers while candidates were filing nomination papers for the elections.
On April 20, the Calcutta High Court had directed the West Bengal Election Commission to issue fresh dates for candidates to file nominations for the panchayat polls. On April 12, the court had stayed all panchayat election processes and asked the state Election Commission to file a status report. The order came after the BJP and a few other Opposition parties accused the Trinamool Congress of stopping them from filing nominations.
The West Bengal Election Commission has yet to announce new dates for the polls – earlier scheduled for May 1, May 3 and May 5. The nominations filed on Monday will be scrutinised on April 25, and the last date to withdraw them is now April 28.
On Monday, the BJP and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said they will move the Calcutta High Court again and inform it of the widespread violence.
“The situation is fast approaching a state where we will be forced to demand imposition of President’s rule in the state,” BJP state unit chief Dilip Ghosh told the Hindustan Times. He added that five of his party’s supporters died in April while trying to file nominations.
BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya said the party had collected videos to present in court to prove that candidates were not allowed to submit their nomination papers. “We will show the clippings to the president on how the democratic rights of the people are under attack in West Bengal,” he said at a press conference.
The Opposition Congress said “goons” of the Trinamool Congress were “trying to terrorise our candidates”. “The police and administration are mute spectators,” state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury told PTI.