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More Violence During Bengal Panchayat Polls Than in Kashmir, Says PM Modi

More Violence During Bengal Panchayat Polls Than in Kashmir, Says PM Modi

The BJP's strategy to adopt 'free and fair elections' as a campaign agenda in West Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha election comes after the panchayat polls episode in the state which allegedly saw hundreds of political murders.

New Delhi: Looking to counter the perception that the situation in Kashmir has worsened over the last five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said there was more violence during the panchayat elections in West Bengal than the one held in J&K recently.

"West Bengal saw violence during panchayat polls but in Jammu and Kashmir there was zero violence during the panchayat polls. This is something the media overlooks. Even unbiased media ends up fuelling the Kashmir narrative by its continuous coverage of terror attacks. But they must also show the progress and the growth of the Kashmiri people,” Modi said in an interview with Network18 group editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi.

The Prime Minister’s use of the panchayat polls in Bengal that saw allegedly over a hundred cases of political murders was in keeping with the party’s political strategy ahead of the 2019 elections in the state.

Bengal is a key state for the BJP, where the party hopes it can gain in order to offset potential losses in the north.

The theme of a free and fair electoral process, or the lack thereof, has dominated the saffron party’s campaign so far. In fact, a section of poll workers, including teachers and government, in Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri protested, demanding increased presence of central forces and cited the violence during the panchayat polls as evidence.

The past week has also seen violence at Barrackpore, where TMC strongman Arjun Singh switched over to the BJP, with both parties alleging that their offices were attacked.

In an earlier interview to News18, senior BJP leader Mukul Roy, once Mamata Banerjee’s close aide said there is no democracy in Bengal.

“Recently, elections of Madhya Pradesh took place… also in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In the three states the BJP lost, but there were no murders…no killings, nothing of that sort. But in the recent past in Bengal, there were civic polls and hundreds of people died – including 52 people from our party. This is the scenario for West Bengal.”

(The full interview will be aired today at 7pm and 10pm on CNN-News18, News18 India, CNBC TV18 and other News18 regional channels.)

first published:April 09, 2019, 16:07 IST