Four killed during third phase of Bengal polls (Lead)

May 18th, 2008 - 8:06 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Kolkata, May 18 (IANS) Four people were killed in clashes in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district Sunday during the third phase of panchayat polls, while there were reports of violence in Malda as well. “Four people - two Congress and two CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist) activists - died in Murshidabad in a clash over the panchayat elections. Some activists also suffered injuries,” state Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

The third and final phase of panchayat polls are being conducted at about 15,000 polling booths in seven districts - Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Murshidabad, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Cooch Behar.

“There were clashes between Congress and CPI-M (workers) at Malda also in the morning. Tension still exists there. Clashes and lobbing of crude bombs were reported from Raninagar and Domkal areas of Murshidabad. We have arrested about 25 people from the districts so far,” Kanojia said.

Police sources said minor clashes were reported between CPI-M and Trinamul Congress workers at Saithiya area of Birbhum and between CPI-M and Congress activists in Ghoramara area of Murshidabad.

The third phase of poll includes 13,120 gram panchayats, 2,751 panchayat samitis and 236 zila parishads having over 11.6 million eligible voters.

Malda and Murshidabad are significant districts as they are the only two zila parishads in West Bengal run by the Congress party. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had visited the two places April 28 to campaign for her party.

Five of the six Congress MPs elected from West Bengal, including Adhir Chowdhury, Mannan Hussain and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, are from these two districts.

Also, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was elected from Jangipur constituency in Murshidabad.

The CPI-M is expected to have a tough fight with Congress at North Dinajpur - the constituency of Information and Broadcasting Minister and state Congress president Priyaranjan Das Munshi.

Competition for seats has always been intense between the Left Front constituents CPI-M and Forward Bloc in Cooch Behar and CPI-M and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) in South Dinajpur.

Besides, re-polling will be held at 15 booths at Basanti in South 24 Parganas following reports of rigging during Wednesday’s second phase elections.

The first two phases of the panchayat polls in 17 out of 18 West Bengal districts were held May 11 and May 14. Counting of votes is scheduled for May 21.

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