Nominations for local polls in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday were marred by violence and clashes, reported The Indian Express. The elections for 825 block panchayat heads will be held on Saturday.
Additional Director General (Law & Order) Prashant Kumar said violence was reported from 14 areas, according to NDTV. The districts that witnessed chaos and violence include Sitapur, Bahraich, Unnao, Kannauj, Jaunpur, Etah, Basti and Sidharthnagar, said Kumar.
“We have reports of clashes between groups, papers being snatched,” Kumar said. “Tough action will be taken against those involved.”
In a video, two men can be seen pulling a Samajwadi Party worker’s sari as she is entering a nomination centre in Lakhimpur Kheri, around 130 km from Lucknow. Apart from attacking the party worker, the men also allegedly snatched the candidate’s nomination papers.
Sharing the video, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav accused Bharatiya Janata Party workers of perpetrating violence. He described them as “power hungry goons of Yogi” [Chief Minister Adityanath].
District Samajwadi Party president Ram Pal Yadav said the candidate in Lakhimpur Kheri was unable to file her nomination as the papers were torn.
“Our party-backed candidate had gone to file her nomination papers at the block office. She had a woman proposer with her. When the woman proposer was about to reach the gates of the block office, the BJP supporters stopped her and started misbehaving with her. When the candidate reached inside the premises, one Braj Singh and one Yash Verma of the BJP snatched her purse thinking that her nomination papers were inside it. They even removed our candidate’s sari. She somehow managed to reach the Returning Officer’s chamber and handed over her nomination papers. But several BJP members were already there. They snatched her papers and tore them. Our MLC and others were beaten up and their vehicles were damaged.”— District Samajwadi Party president Ram Pal Yadav
Lakhimpur Kheri Superintendent of Police Vijay Dhull said that the two men who were misbehaving with the woman have been arrested and will be produced before the court, reported The Times of India.
“The two have been booked under the charges of sexual assault, rioting, punishment for undue influence or personation at an election and robbery,” he added.
Six police officers were also suspended for laxity in connection with the incident. This includes Circle Officer Mohamadi Abhay Pratap, Station House Officer Pasgawan Adarsh, Inspector of Crime Branch Hanuman Prasad and three Sub Inspectors Durgesh Gangwar, Ugrasen Singh and Mahesh Pratap.
In Sitapur district, clashes were reported from the Tasmanda block. One person reportedly sustained a bullet injury in firing by a mob, according to The Indian Express. Four people have been taken into police custody in connection with the violence, said Sitapur District Magistrate Vishal Bhardwaj.
In Bahraich, a policeman was injured in stone pelting when clashes broke out as Samajwadi Party candidate Devendra Singh tried to force his way to file his nominations in Balha block. “When they [clashes] were stopped, the SP candidate’s supporters started pelting stones and abusing police,” said the police. “This led to chaos and constable Rameshwar Tiwari was injured in the melee. An FIR has been filed against five persons associated with the Samajwadi Party.”
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also posted a video of the violence. “PM and CM, please congratulate your workers in UP who resorted to bombs, stones and bullets, who snatched nomination papers, beat up journalists and misbehaved with women,” she tweeted in Hindi. “Law and order is blindfolded and democracy is being disrobed.”
Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party said it will hold agitations at all tehsil headquarters across the state on July 15 to protest the alleged irregularities in the elections to the posts of district and block panchayat chiefs, reported PTI.
In a statement, the party said that its workers and members will protest against the “murder of democracy” by the BJP government. The party will also submit a memorandum to Governor Anandiben Patel on matters related law and order, inflation, unemployment, agricultural laws and health services.
The BJP has denied all the accusations. “If there has been any violence in districts, the administration will do the needful,” said state BJP vice president Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
The saffron party also claimed to have won at least 276 of the 825 posts unopposed.
The State Election Commission has said that the nomination process will continue on Friday, reported The Indian Express. Voting will be held on Saturday between 11 am and 3 pm. Counting will be held on the same day.
The local body elections are being keenly watched as a run-up to next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Last week, the BJP had swept the elections to the posts of district panchayat chief in Uttar Pradesh, winning 67 of 75 seats. The Samajwadi Party won only five seats while the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jansatta Dal and an Independent candidate won one seat each. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party had boycotted the elections, claiming it will not be held in a transparent manner.
These were indirect elections where new members of the district councils voted to elect the panchayat chiefs. Akhilesh Yadav had pointed out that it was strange that while most results in the elections for the Zila Panchayat members were in favour of his party, the BJP secured victory in the polls for the district panchayat chief.