India: Five dead in election violence in West Bengal state | Narendra Modi news

Rival parties blame each other for inciting violence in Cooch Behar district in Battlefield State.

At least five people have been shot and killed in election-related violence in the Indian state of West Bengal, police say.

Four people died and four others were injured near a polling station in Cooch Behar district on Saturday when security forces opened fire to control a crowd, police officer Vishal Garg said as quoted by the Associated Press news agency. He did not give further details on what triggered the clashes.

In another incident, unidentified gunmen shot at voters at another polling station in the same district, killing one person. Garg said police are investigating the attack.

Volunteers check voters’ body temperatures and hand out gloves at a polling station during the fourth phase of the West Bengal state elections in Calcutta, India on Saturday April 10, 2021 [Bikas Das/AP]

Local elections in West Bengal, India’s fourth most populous state with 90 million people, are being held in eight phases. Voting in four Indian states and one Union territory began at the end of March and is spread over a month. Results will be reported on May 2.

Security arrangements have been tightened and nearly 80,000 security personnel have been deployed to 16,000 polling stations in West Bengal for Saturday’s vote, according to reports.

Key test

Eastern state, which has Kolkata as its regional capital, has already been hit by election-related violence, including deadly clashes between supporters of rival political parties.

The vote is seen as a contest between the state’s ruling party, the All India Trinamool Congress, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chief State Minister Mamata Banerjee confirmed Saturday’s death even as rival parties blamed each other for inciting violence and demanded an investigation by the Election Commission.

The elections are seen as a crucial test of whether the BJP can gain a foothold in the northeast and the south. The Hindu Nationalist Party controls a dozen of India’s 28 states, with alliance partners in several others, but never won power in West Bengal.

Modi and his main leaders campaigned to wrest power from Trinamool Congress.

A defeat for Banerjee, a strong critic of Modi, would deal a blow to the country’s already weak opposition.

Modi’s overall popularity remains unmatched in India, but his party has faced tougher challenges than expected in recent state polls.

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