On a day when at least four people were killed in Cooch Behar, West Bengal, after central forces opened fire in “self-defence” against “miscreants” during polling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, for unnecessarily “instigating” her workers against security personnel.
Across two public rallies held on Saturday, one each in Siliguri and another in Krishnanagar, the Prime Minister attacked Banerjee for repeated insinuations and trying to “foment violence” on poll days by “attacking central forces”. The idea, he alleged, was to create an atmosphere of fear and violence — like previous years — so that people do not come out to vote in large numbers.
Incidentally, Banerjee has been repeatedly unleashing verbal volleys on the central forces and has been asking her workers to “gherao” and fight it out with the security people.
She is reportedly not happy with the huge deployment of central forces in the State during polls.
A few days back, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, too had pointed out that it was “unthinkable of a sitting Chief Minister” to use “such language against central forces”.
Bengal is voting in an unprecedented 8 phase, in view of past instances of political violence.
So far the voter turnout has been above 80 per cent in three phases while in the fourth phase, the voter turnout stood at over 76.16 per cent till 5 pm.
Firing and deaths
Sources say four people died after central forces open-fired in a polling booth in “self-defence”, after a mob of 150-odd people attacked the security personnel and tried to “snatch away their weapons”; in another place one person died after miscreants opened fire. Both the incidents took place in Sitalkuchi at Cooch Behar in the northern West Bengal.
The BSF, in a statement, on the first incident claimed one of their constables “was attacked by a mob” after they tried to clear the people “who were resisting voters from reaching polling booths”. The team “reacted in self-defence” and fired six rounds. After an hour, another mob of 15 started manhandling and beating up the polling staff on duty at this booth. “Miscreants tried to snatch weapons of CISF personnel deployed there. And was advancing aggressively....Sensing imminent danger, they fired seven more rounds towards the advancing mob of miscreants,” the statement said adding: “5 to 6 miscreants sustained fatal injuries and further they succumbed to injuries”.
Political blame game
The deaths sparked off an instant political blame-game between TMC and BJP.
The TMC supremo alleged central forces were acting at the behest of the “Home Minister, Amit Shah” who was “conspiring against the people”.
Demanding resignation of Shah, Banerjee said she will visit the booth on Sunday. “I will take revenge. My revenge will be through EVMs. Central forces are not my enemy. But, Amit Shah is conspiring to kill people,” she said.
PM Modi on the other hand, squarely blamed Banerjee and her “politics of violence”.
“Polls took place peacefully in four other states. No where did any firing take place. But here, the TMC and Chief Minister is giving special instructions to party cadres to attack central forces,” he said at a rally.
Sensing imminent defeat, TMC was now afraid that it was “unable to rig poll” and was “hence resorting to violence”, Modi alleged.
“Didi, the problem is not the Election Commission or the central forces. The problem is actually you. You are resorting to poll violence like previous years; you tried to intimidate voters; you are now bad mouthing central forces as you can sense there there is people’s anger against you. This Bengal polls are no more a Didi versus BJP fight. It has become a Mamata Banerjee versus people of Bengal faith. And you know, you cannot defeat the people. Hence all such criticism, canvassing of votes on communal lines and insinuations,” the Prime Minister said.
Sporadic instances of violence rocked Phase-IV of polls in West Bengal.
Forty four Constituencies in the State, across districts such as Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas are going to polls today.
BJP MP Locket Chatterjee’s car was attacked at Chunchura in Hooghly and bricks hurled at her allegedly by Trinamool workers; while Union Minister Babul Supriyo (who is the party’s candidate in Tollygunge) has alleged false voting in one of the booths.
In the north Bengal region, the Trinamool Congress candidate Udayan Guha, at Dinhata (Cooch Behar) was attacked allegedly by BJP workers.
Clashes have been reported — between BJP and Trinamool — in areas such as Behala (Kolkata), Howrah and Sitalkuchi (Cooch Behar) and Chunchura and so on.