West Bengal: Counting for panchayat polls begins amid tight security

The counting would take two days to finish but a trend will be clear by evening

The counting of votes for the three-tier panchayat polls began in West Bengal on Tuesday amid tight security. The elections were marred by violence, multiple deaths and allegations of booth tampering. Elections were held for 74,000 seats across the state on June 8. However,  repolls were held at over 696 booths following allegations of ballot box tampering.

There are around 339 counting venues spread across 22 districts. “The counting, which began at 8 am, is likely to continue for the next two days. It will take time for the ballots to be counted and the results to be compiled. We are hopeful that a trend will be available by the end of the day,” an SEC official said.

There is tight security at all the counting venues. Besides armed state police personnel, central forces have also been deployed. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC are being imposed outside the venue to avoid any untoward incidents. There are a total of 767 strongrooms across 22 districts.

Over 30 people died after violence rocked West Bengal’s rural polls on Saturday. There were also widespread incidents of ballot boxes being vandalised, ballot papers torched, and bombs thrown at rivals.

Meanwhile, the elections are being viewed as a popularity test for TMC, amid allegations of corruption in connection with the teachers’ recruitment scam. While Mamata Banerjee and TMC have expressed confidence in dominating the rural polls, BJP is also confident of making huge gains. The election results will also be indicative of the BJP’s chances in the state ahead of the next year’s Lok Sabha elections. BJP is the principal opposition party in the state.

In the 2018 rural polls, the ruling TMC had emerged victorious in 90 per cent of the panchayat seats and all the 22 zilla parishads. During the elections, 34 per cent of the seats went to the TMC uncontested. However, the Opposition parties had fielded candidates in more than 90 per cent of seats, unlike in the 2018 rural polls.

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