Voting begins in West Bengal for panchayat elections amid tight security

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses the media at CM's office in Howrah

The counting will be done on 17th May. The elections are being held for 621 zilla parishad seats, 6,157 panchayat samiti seats and 31,827 gram panchayats, PTI reported.

Of the 48,650 seats in 3358 gram panchayats, 16814 were uncontested; of the 9217 seats in 341 panchayat samitis, 3059 were uncontested; and in the 20 zilla parishads, 203 of the 825 seats were uncontested.

Incidents of violence were reported from across the state. As per media reports, in Bagda of North 24 Parganas district, nine goons were caught by villagers stamping ballot papers in a booth.

The panchayat polls are the last major elections to be witnessed by the state, before Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

In Sujapur of Malda, a clash broke out between the supporters of Congress and Trinamool after the husband of a Congress candidate was allegedly attacked.

The run-up to the panchayat elections was marked by intense campaigning. Over 11 per cent polling was recorded till 9 am in the West Bengal panchayat polls, an official said. After being slapped, the BJP worker is seen being escorted out of the place.

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# 02:00 PM: West Bengal: Clashes broke out between TMC and Congress supporters in Murshidabad.

"An incident of fire was reported". The union minister had earlier demanded president's rule in the state. "We were attacked by a group of TMC workers with lathis (sticks)", an injured local told ANI.

In Bagda in North 24 Parganas, miscreants allegedly stormed a poll station and tried to stamp ballot papers. "Highly condemnable and deplorable, it signifies that culture of political violence under TMC has engulfed entire West Bengal". Another CPI-M worker Taimur Gayen has allegedly died in North 24 Parganas district's Amdanga while two others were injured during bombing. I just drove people away using my hand, that's all.

TV channels aired footage showing north Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh slapping a BJP polling agent in a booth in Natabari of the district.

In some areas such as Islampur of North 24 Parganas, power was disrupted and votes were conducted in candle lights.

West Bengal panchayat polls: Debu Das was constantly threatened by TMC workers for being associated with CPI (M), the party alleged. The injured has been identified as Raju Biswas and is now undergoing treatment at Panihati State General Hospital.

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