July 12, 2013
High turnout wins phase 1 panchayat polls
The Trinamool Congress Government truly succeeds in what is being widely called its first test of democracy, as the first phase of panchayat polls marked high turnout in the three Jangalmahal districts of Paschim Medinipur, Bankura and Purulia on Thursday, unlike expected by many. The three-tire panchayat polls in the most sensitive Paschim Medinipore district of Jangalmahal were largely peaceful.
Polling in the Jangalmahal was monitored by paramilitary forces and also aerially with senior police officers criss-crossing the three districts on an Air Force helicopter. The huge deployment of central forces in the villages and polling booths ensured that people could vote. Maoist squads were nowhere in the area. And unlike the last elections, they didn`t even give a poll boycott call.
Despite the acrimony for the past few months between the State Government and the State Election Commission and uncertainty over whether the poll would be held at all, voters in the three districts turned up in huge numbers. Despite the month of Ramzan, people came out in large numbers to cast their votes in minority-dominated blocks as well. There were long queues of voters, waiting to cast their mandate, even after sundown. The polling continued till late night. Purulia constitutes 170 Gram Panchayats, 20 Panchayat Samitis; Bankura has 190 Gram Panchayat and 22 Panchayat Samitis; whereas Paschim Medinipur includes 290 Gram Panchayats and 29 Panchayat Samitis. Paschim Medinipur recorded 72% votes, Purulia and Bankura recorded 75% votes each at the end of the polling.
The district election officers expressed satisfaction over voting process. They said that it was largely peaceful and no major incident was reported.
According to State Election Commission sources, so far, re-polls have been ordered in three booths in Sabong and one at Saltora, Bankura, said an SEC official. “Polling was largely peaceful compared to 2008,” he added.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was happy with the peaceful polling. “That voting is going on peacefully in Jangalmahal is a big thing“ She told reporters at Writers` Buildings before leaving for Hooghly to address an election meeting.
Despite efforts by the Opposition to create an atmosphere of violence, the polling showed democracy was safe under the Trinamool regime. In 2003 the panchayat poll had been held in a single day when 35 people were killed in clashes against 17 people killed in poll clashes in 2008 when polling was held in three phases. This year there is not a single report of casualty on the day of the poll.