At least 10 killed in poll-related violence in India’s West Bengal


KOLKATA, India (Reuters) – At least 10 people were killed over the weekend in election-related violence in India’s West Bengal, an official said on Monday, disrupting the poll in a state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party is seeking to regain after a 2021 defeat.

State election commission official Nilanjan Shandilya said that nearly 700 voting booths in the rural governing council elections will reopen on Monday, after clashes between political rivals interrupted the poll on Saturday.

Sporadic violence has gripped the state in east India since June 8 when the elections were announced. Media reports cited instances of political rivals shooting at each other over the weekend, hurling crude bombs at people gathered to vote and blocking access to voting booths.

The state election commission has received reports of 10 deaths during Saturday’s voting, Shandilya said.

Media reports put the toll higher. The Indian Express daily said there had been at least 20 election-related deaths as of Monday. State police declined to comment on the fatalities.

Political violence has long dogged the industrial state of West Bengal, which for years was a communist stronghold until the current Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) party rose to power in 2011.

The TMC currently has a majority in the rural council, called panchayats, but faces a challenge from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking to make inroads after losing the state assembly elections there in 2021.

“Political opponents did not have anything to offer to counter our development initiatives. That’s why they unleashed violence against our party workers,” said Shantanu Sen, a spokesperson for the TMC.

Dilip Ghosh, a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said the state government had failed to maintain security. “The state administration has totally failed to contain violence and bloodshed,” he said.



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