NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: West Bengal Panchayat elections have registered a grim sense of loss. The state has witnessed a violent election leaving 23 dead and a 100 injured as counting day approaches.

Re-poll in 19 districts under heavy security has been ordered, and the violnce still persists. ANI has reported of videos of a poll booth being captured by miscreants brandishing weapons in the Ratua constituency of the Malda district.

Prior to the re-poll, the violence and booth capturing was far more rampant. In Murshidabad, ballot papers were thrown in a pond after clashes that brought voting to a halt.

Hours before a CPI(M) worker and his wife were burnt alive in their homes in the Namkhana village of the South 24 Parganas district.

At another polling booth, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) Minister was captured on tape, slapping an opposition candidate who he later alleged was a Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) ‘agent’ attempting to capture the polling booth.

Minutes later, a crude bomb explosion took place in Sadhanpur, Amdanga leaving 20 injured.

In the hours that followed, a steady rise of both voters and violence was witnessed with criminal intimidation became the defining feature of the election.

Speaking to The Citizen, Minister In-charge, Judicial and Law Department of West Bengal, Moloy Ghatak stated ““Without getting the information authentically, I also cannot react. The television news is showing 2-5 booths and repeating it again and again. Unless until we verify, we cannot work. There was the case of 572 booths and re-election is taking place for them. Let the re-election be concluded, let us get the authentic information only then we can react. We cannot react on any photograph or newspaper news.”

However, on the other hand, in a conversation with The Citizen, CPI(M) leader, Mohammad Salim, stated, “This was an unprecedented, organized loot of Panchayat vote, destroying the democratic institution. From nomination to re-poll the entire episode is marked by organized goons in comport with the police and state election commission to satisfy the whims of the Chief Minister. The government is in denial as it puts behind bars those that resisted and tried to foil the attempts.” He went on to add, “Even the re-poll was only ordered in places where the TMC could not gain votes and not in places where we demanded. Killers are not being arrested but instead those that tried to foil the attempts have been falsely implicated by the police.”

How valid is an election taking place in the midst of such violence?

Abhik Chimni, lawyer at the Supreme Court said “The law is clear that if booth capturing or criminal intimidation is committed, then under Section 100 of the Representation of the People Act 1951, such an election is liable to be declared void.”

“The people of West Bengal are politically conscious and they will resist and reverse the democratic rights from being suppressed. It is the Panchayati institution that has been destroyed. The State Election Commission and the State Administration has lost the peoples faith,” Salim said.