Over 72% turnout in Bengal amid scattered violence
Kolkata: A BJP candidate was attacked while the vehicles of another nominee and a senior party leader vandalised allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers as West Bengal recorded a 72.91 per cent turnout till 5 p.m. in the final phase of polling on Sunday amid allegations of sporadic violence, rigging and EVM breakdowns.
Braving the scorching heat, large number of voters of various age groups lined up outside the polling stations in the nine constituencies since early morning.
As of 5 p.m., Mathurapur recorded the highest polling percentage at 78.52 per cent, followed by Basirhat (77.77 per cent), Diamond Harbour (77.40 per cent), Jaynagar (75.81 per cent), Barasat (74.41 per cent), Dum Dum (73.05 per cent) Jadavpur (70.97 per cent), Kolkata South (67.09 per cent), Kolkata North (61.18 per cent).
The vehicle of Nilanjan Roy, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate from Diamond Harbour, was vandalised in Budge Budge, following which he blamed his Trinamool opponent and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
Anupam Hazra, the BJP nominee from Jadavpur, and another party leader accompanying him were attacked and the latter’s car was damaged allegedly by Trinamool workers after the BJP functionaries visited a booth under Ward No. 109 of Kolkata Municipal Corporation on receiving reports of rigging.
Alleging that he was pushed and shoved, Hazra accused the Trinamool of rigging all the 52 polling booths under the ward.
“The BJP Mandal President was also attacked and one of his teeth was broken. A CISF officer stationed at the booth was also injured in the attack by the Trinamool workers,” Hazra alleged.
At Park Circus in Kolkata North constituency, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Rahul Sinha was allegedly pelted with stones, and a cameraperson of a local news channel also injured.
Later, bombs were hurled near the city’s Posta area causing panic among the locals. A large contingent of police and central force personnel were rushed to the spot.
“Trinamool activists threatened voters across my constituency and tried to create disturbances in many places despite deployment of central forces who should be more active,” Sinha said.
Meanwhile, the BJP’s Kolkata South candidate and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand nephew, Chandra Kumar Bose, accused the Trinamool of attacking his party’s polling agents in various parts of the constituency.
In Basirhat constituency’s Minakha, BJP supporters set up a road blockade accusing Trinamool activists of threatening them and stopping them from going to the polling booths. However, the blockade was withdrawn after central forces reached the spot and escorted the voters to the polling stations.
Several crude bombs were hurled and threats to voters were reported at Raydighi in Mathurapur constituency.
The CPI-M’s candidate from North Kolkata, Kaninika Bose (Ghosh), staged a protest demonstration in Belgachia, alleging that her party’s polling agents were beaten up and not allowed to sit inside the booths in the area.
In Jadavpur constituency’s Baruipur area, Trinamool booth President Azizur Rahman allegedly guided many voters to cast their votes for the state’s ruling party. The presiding officer accepted that the accused was “helping out” voters to cast their votes.
Meanwhile, Trinamool’s Kolkata South candidate Mala Roy alleged that she was not allowed to enter a polling booth by the central forces in Mudiali after an EVM failure was reported from there.
Trinamool also accused central forces of ransacking a party’s camp office at Kamarhati in Dum Dum constituency.
Some locals raised “go back” slogans against BJP leader and Union Minister Babul Supriyo when he was taking to the media after casting his vote at a booth in Jorasanko in the North Kolkata parliamentary constituency. He immediately left the spot.
The by-polls in Bhatpara Assembly constituency in North 24 Parganas district was marred by violent clashes between between the workers of the BJP and the Trinamool, bombings and ransacking of police vehicles. The police carried out a baton charge and the Rapid Action Force (RAF) had to be deployed in the area to control the situation.
In the initial hours, polling was halted in a number of booths due to faulty Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in nine Lok Sabha constituencies.
Polling at three booths in Dum Dum’s Nagerbazar area and one in South City College under the Kolkata South seat was delayed by more than an hour, while voting did not begin until 9.30 a.m. at a booth in Sonarpur in the Javadpur Lok Sabha constituency.
Cases of EVM failures were also reported from several booths in Diamond Harbour, Joynagar, Barasat, Jadavpur, Dum Dum and both the constituencies of Kolkata.
Stakes are high in these constituencies where several other prominent candidates including actresses Mimi Chakraborty (Jadavpur) and Nusrat Jahab (Basirhat), former Kolkata Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya (Jadavpur), and veteran Trinamool Congress MPs Sougata Roy (Dum Dum) and Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Kolkata North) are in the fray.