Lok Sabha polls: West Bengal sees 76.43% turnout as violence disrupts voting yet again; CPM, BJP slam Mamata Banerjee
In Islampur, the car of sitting MP and CPM candidate Mohammed Salim was attacked with bricks and its window broken.
Special Police Observer for West Bengal Vivek Dube conceded that places such as Chopra in Raiganj witnessed trouble
The BJP also raised the issue of free and fair polling and alleged hate speech by TMC leader Ratna Ghosh Kar
West Bengal witnessed recorded a voter turnout of 76.43 percent till 7 pm
Kolkata: Just as the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal saw acrimony, anger and violence, the second phase of polling Thursday also witnessed untoward incidents in three constituences: Raiganj, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri. Though Special Police Observer for West Bengal Vivek Dube maintained that the polls were largely peaceful, he conceded that places such as Chopra in Raiganj witnessed trouble.
Chopra voters put up a road blockade in protest against absence of central forces at the polling stations, an official said. Police fired in the air and burst tear gas shells to control a mob, who threw stones at them. Bombs were also hurled by unknown miscreants in Chopra, a senior EC official in the district said.
In Islampur, the car of sitting MP and CPM candidate Mohammed Salim was attacked with bricks and its window broken. The attack occurred at the booth where Salim challenged TMC workers who were allegedly intimidating voters and poll officers.
The CPM accused the TMC of being behind the attack. Salim slammed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and claimed there is no democracy in West Bengal. Salim claimed he discovered that TMC men were intimidating voters and his car was attacked when he attempted to intervene.
A booth in Girpar in the same constituency also witnessed violence. Voters blocked National Highway 34, claiming that unidentified miscreants did not allow them to vote, pushing the police to use batons. There were reports of EVMs malfunctioning in a polling booth in Raiganj. A fault in the EVM delayed onset of voting in another booth in Uttar Dinajpur.
BJP candidate from Raiganj, Debasree Chaudhuri, alleged that TMC workers were trying to capture the booth at Raiganj Coronation High School. Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunsi expressed her displeasure with security arrangements and blamed the TMC for violence. Although CPM won the seat in 2014, the Congress has won from here 13 times. The seat is closely contested between Deepa Dasmunsi (INC), sitting MP Mohammed Salim (CPM), Kanailal Agarwal (TMC) and Debasree Chaudhuri (BJP). This constituency registered voter turnout of 73.31 percent till 7 pm.
BJP Rajya Sabha member Roopa Ganguly, taking a dig at Mamata Banerjee, exclaimed, "Did you see the visuals from Chopra today? There was bombing, stone pelting, lathi charge by the police. Absolute mess all around. I am failing to understand how is this even a democratic situation in West Bengal!"
Polling was halted at Upper Bagdogra's 25/47 booth under the Darjeeling constituency after a black tape was allegedly found on the BJP symbol on the EVM. Police had to resort to lathi charge after EVMs were smashed to pieces at booth number 112 in Chopra. BJP Matigara youth president was admitted to Siliguri hospital after being beaten up, allegedly by Trinamool activists at Matigara booth number 286. Reports also said BJP and TMC workers clashed at Dighirpar and Kotgach booth in Chopra.
The BJP has been winning the seat since 2009 and looks to retain it amid the anti-TMC and anti-Mamata sentiment among the Gorkha community. The Gorkhas are upset with the state government for an incident wherein a strike by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha saw the police open fire and kill 11 locals. The BJP fielded Raju Bista while the TMC has given a ticket to Amar Singh Rai, the sitting MLA from Darjeeling. The seat witnessed a voter turnout of 72.7 percent till 7 pm.
Jalpaiguri registered a turnout of 82.76 percent till 7 pm with polling being largely peaceful except for a few reports of disruption at a few booths due to faulty EVMs. Local BJP leaders accused TMC workers of setting fire to a booth in Jalpaigur’s Malbazar. Partho Pratim Ghosh, a journalist from ABP, was seriously injured during a clash in Jalpaiguri's Malbazar. He was taken to Siliguri hospital for treatment.
Both the CPM and the TMC are competing for the tribal vote, an important demography in Jalpaiguri, comprising around 15 percent of the population. TMC's Bijoy Chandra Barman will be contesting against the Congress’ Mani Kumar Darnal, CPM's Baghirath Chandra Roy and BJP’s Jayanta Kumar Roy in this constituency in north Bengal.
Body of BJP worker found in Purlia
Earlier in the day, in Senabana village of Purulia district, body of a 22-year-old BJP worker was found hanging from a tree. The deceased, identified as Sishupal Sahis, was a member of the BJP Yuva Morcha. A BJP delegation met Election Commission Special Observer Ajay Naik and demanded deployment of central forces in areas undergoing polling in the remaining phases of the Lok Sabha election.
"We met Special Observer Ajay Naik," said Mukul Roy, BJP election committee convenor. "Eighty percent of booths had central forces and we all saw the violence. There are five more phases in West Bengal. BJP is demanding central forces in every booth for the polls. The Election Commission assured us that more central forces are being brought in. Everyone knows about the Purulia incident. There’s jungle raj in Bengal and we need justice. Who killed the BJP worker? Proper investigation is required."
The BJP delegation also raised the issue of free and fair polling and alleged hate speech by TMC leader Ratna Ghosh Kar.
With inputs from A Ghose, SS Parveen, Roshan Gupta and PTI
The author is a freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com
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