Violence erupted in at least 18 districts of Uttar Pradesh during local body elections on Saturday, The Indian Express reported. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party claimed victory in 635 out of 825 posts of block panchayat heads even as the Opposition Samajwadi Party accused the state government of misusing its administrative machinery to “forcefully capture” the seats.

Clashes and scuffles were reported from Etawah, Unnao, Hathras, Amethi, Ballia, Siddharth Nagar, Kanpur, Mau, Hamirpur, Amroha, Lucknow, Sultanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Aligarh, Firozabad, Pratapgarh, Kanpur Dehat and Chandauli districts.

In Etawah, while talking to his senior in the middle of the fracas, Superintendent of Police (City) Prashant Kumar was caught on camera saying that “BJP people” had brought bombs and slapped him.

Etawah Senior Superintendent of Police Brijesh Kumar Singh said voting was on smoothly at the Barhpura block when some people tried to come closer than 200 metres to the polling booth. When stopped by officials, they fired shots and pelted stones, following which the police dispersed them, Singh said.

The officer added that seven cartridges were recovered from the spot and that the police did not fire any shots.

In another video from Unnao, an Indian Administrative Service officer was seen chasing down journalist Krishna Tewari in public and beating him mercilessly. Tewari said Divyanshu Patel, chief development officer of Unnao, had beaten him up and BJP workers were part of the crowd too.

“No action was taken against them,” he said, according to The Indian Express. “They are roaming around freely.”

The video of the assault was widely shared on social media, triggering outrage. Lucknow (range) Inspector General Laxmi Singh the journalist has submitted a complaint, adding that officials will investigate the incident.

In Hathras, a Samajwadi Party leader was injured after being shot, NDTV reported. Meanwhile, in Hamirpur district Samajwadi Party workers alleged that BJP activists had attacked them with sticks and even stopped voters from going to polling booths. Police officers were also reportedly beaten up.

In a statement, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged that the saffron party used its power to get votes in its favour. He claimed that candidates were “abducted openly” and those opposing this were harassed.

“The BJP government has no faith in democracy and the Constitution,” Yadav said. “Democracy in Uttar Pradesh has been held hostage by BJP.”

The Bahujan Samaj Party also castigated the BJP, saying that “jungle raj” was prevailing in the state.

“There has been widespread violence in the panchayat polls, and there was indecent behaviour with a woman in Lakhimpur Kheri,” she tweeted. “This is highly condemnable. Is this their [BJP’s] rule of law and democracy? This is something to ponder upon.”

The nomination for the polls on Thursday were also marred by violence and clashes. In a video that emerged from Lakhimpur Kheri, around 130 km from Lucknow, two men can be seen pulling a Samajwadi Party worker’s sari as she is entering a nomination centre. Six police officers were suspended in connection with the incident.

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 five seats while the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Jansatta Dal and an Independent candidate won one seat each.

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.