More violence in Bengal civic polls; death toll rises to 5

The fourth phase of the five-phase West Bengal panchayat elections began today amid continuing violence, with the death toll rising to five and more than 12 persons injured.

West Bengal has long been infamous for electoral violence even by Indian standards; and nothing has changed since Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress took over the state after 30-odd years of Leftist rule.

Tellingly, two of the five dead persons were killed while assembling crude bombs.

A 55-year-old voter was killed in firing by the Central Reserve Police Force when voters hurled stones at a polling booth at Ratua in Malda district, according to officials. But in fact the incident was a fallout of brewing trouble over allegations of booth-capturing in the polling station, housed at the Sambalpur High School in that area.

Panchayat polls are being held today in Murshidabad, Birbhum, Malda and Nadia districts.

In Murshidabad district, a woman voter was killed when bombs were hurled at her by miscreants when she was coming out of a booth at a village in Beldanga after casting her vote, police said.

Two more persons were killed in the district while making bombs at Raninagar village on Monday morning.

A Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate's husband was shot at in Faridpur gram panchayat area of Jalangi in Murshidabad district. He was admitted to Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital at Berehampore in a serious condition, police said.

A Trinamool Congress supporter received bullet injuries at Islampur area in Murshidabad district.

Four persons were injured when bombs were hurled during a CPI(M)-Congress clash at Juginda area of the district, the police said.

A youth was injured at Ichakali in Jangipur area of Murshadabad district, the police said.

In Birbhum district, the father of an independent candidate was shot and injured in Kasba in Birbhum district.

Hriday Ghosh, the Independent candidate, alleged that the culprits had targeted him, but his father was shot when he came to save him.

Before the polling began, two bodies were found in a paddy field in Birbhum district.

Clashes between CPI (M) and TMC activists have also been reported in Suri where 20 people have been injured. Some of them are believed to be critical. According to sources, the death toll is expected to rise.

The panchayat polls that began on 11 July have seen a lot of bloodshed and violence. Three Congress workers were killed on Sunday in four districts of West Bengal and at least 100 houses vandalised and looted in South 24-Parganas district on Sunday.

After the fourth phase today, the final phase will be on 25 July. Observers blame the Election Commission for staggering the election over two weeks without taking into account the ramifications.