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West Bengal: Voters of Cooch Behar wary of voting, fear rampant violence by TMC goons like panchayat elections last year

The panchayat polls in West Bengal were marred by widespread reports of violence, murder and even capturing of ballot boxes.

People of West Bengal’s Cooch Behar who go in for voting today are wary to vote, reports DNA. The people here are citing the rampant violence carried out by the Trinamool Congress party during the panchayat elections last year, as the reason for their apprehension.

Polling in two parliamentary constituencies of West Bengal, Cooch Behar, and Alipurduar, is being held in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections on April 11. It is notable here that rampant poll malpractice and violence is already being reported from West Bengal.

For the 14,864 people of Cooch Behar, who were granted Indian Citizenship as part of the landmark Land Boundary Agreement signed by the Narendra Modi government and Bangladesh in 2015, this will be their first Lok Sabha polls. But the residents of Cooch Behar say TMC leaders had unleashed goons to control the poll process in 2018 because they had not lived up to the promises they made. They fear similar violence during the Lok Sabha polling as well.

“Under normal conditions, we would have been excited, but given the violence in the last panchayat election and a bypoll here, we are keeping fingers crossed. During the panchayat polls, the ruling party candidate won uncontested because no one was allowed to file nomination. In the Assembly bypoll, we were told that our votes have already been cast,” said Bishnu Burman, a resident of Shibprasad Mustafi enclave in Cooch Behar.

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He also said there was growing resentment among people against ruling TMC owing to the violence. “Many have made up their minds that if they are stopped from voting this time, they will put up a fight,” he added.

Saju Rahman, a resident of Karala enclave also said that there has been no development in their area under the ruling West Bengal government, “Enclave dwellers still live in tin sheds,” he said.

Even at Poaturkuthi enclave, which is a Muslim dominated area, people are talking about voting in favour of BJP. “We have been cheated. Promises are not kept. Though they don’t want to spell it out, almost all Muslims will vote for BJP from here,” said a Poaturkuthi resident on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, security has also been heightened in Cooch Behar as residents fear violence on polling day. Over 300 poll personnel had earlier written a letter to the state chief electoral officer (CEO) and Returning Officer of the district to tighten security. They demanded deployment of central forces in view of the violence seen during the last major election held in West Bengal.

The panchayat polls were marred by widespread reports of violence, murder and even capturing of ballot boxes. Twenty people were injured in a low-intensity blast at a polling station in Cooch Behar district and several incidents of pre-poll violence were also reported.

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