Assembly Elections 2021: Sporadic violence marks voting in Kerala, Bengal; polling largely peaceful in TN, Assam, Puducherry
ECI said that elections remained largely peaceful in all states. However, media reports confirmed sporadic spurts of violence in West Bengal where some candidates of the ruling TMC were allegedly attacked by BJP cadres
Polling was conducted peacefully in 1,53,538 polling stations across 475 Assembly constituencies in the single-phase elections in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and for the third phase in Assam and West Bengal on Tuesday, said the Election Commission.
However, media reports confirmed sporadic spurts of violence in West Bengal where candidates of the ruling party were allegedly attacked by cadres of the BJP. The elections remained largely peaceful in Assam, amid disturbances and EVM glitches in some areas. In Tamil Nadu, allegations of electoral malpractice were levelled while Puducherry witnessed brisk polling.
The Election Commission in a press release said that all the polling stations followed COVID-19 safety protocols, where social distancing arrangements and facilities of thermal scanning, hand sanitisers, face masks were made available. Polling was also conducted under strict security arrangements, it said.
At the beginning of the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had urged voters to exercise their franchise.
As polling begins in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, I request my sisters and brothers to go out and vote in large numbers and ensure a strong, progressive and prosperous future for themselves.
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) April 6, 2021
Elections are taking place in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. I request the people in these places to vote in record numbers, particularly the young voters.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 6, 2021
By-polls to Kanniyakumari Lok Sabha seat in Tamil Nadu and Malappuram Parliamentary seat in Kerala were also conducted on Tuesday.
In West Bengal, a total of 77.68 percent of 78.5 lakh voters exercised their franchise till the end of polling, according to the Election Commission’s provisional data. Voting was being held in 16 seats in South 24 Parganas district (part II), seven in Howrah (part I) and eight in Hooghly (part I), officials told news agency PTI.
A total of 205 candidates, including BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta, state minister Ashima Patra and CPM leader Kanti Ganguly were in the fray from the 31 seats which went to the polls in the third of the eight phases.
The Election Commission had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in all the constituencies, declaring them as 'sensitive' and heavy forces were deployed.
Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, however, was unimpressed with the presence of Central forces and alleged interference by them to "influence voters".
The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party. pic.twitter.com/l6t28mxwBO
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 6, 2021
BJP MP Soumitra Khan's estranged wife and TMC candidate Sujata Mondal Khan was allegedly assaulted by the BJP cadre in Arambag, a charge denied by the saffron party.TV grabs showed the TMC leader being chased in an open field by people wielding sticks and iron rods and then hit on the head with sticks. Her security officer was also injured, according to PTI.
Petrifying visuals of @BJP4India goons attacking TMC candidate #SujataMandal, openly abusing her & threatening her with rods & sickle. If they have the guts to do this to a female candidate, imagine what they can do to your daughters. This is their ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ pic.twitter.com/uBh4oTyNeR
— All India Trinamool Congress (@AITCofficial) April 6, 2021
While the TMC claimed that BJP "goons" didn't allow the party's polling agents inside the polling stations, the saffron party accused Sujata of entering the area with TMC "goons" and creating unrest by threatening people against going to the polling stations to exercise their franchise.
The CEO sought a report from election officials over the incident, sources told PTI.
TMC candidate Dr Nirmal Majhi claimed that he was "heckled" by BJP supporters and his vehicle vandalised when he tried visiting a booth in Uluberia (Uttar) constituency. Majhi was made to wear a helmet and escorted out of the troubled area by the police.
In Khanakul, TMC candidate Najmul Karim was allegedly beaten up by the BJP activists and slogans were raised against him, before being recused from the area by Central forces.
In Falta seat, a BJP candidate's vehicle was attacked. In Bishnupur constituency, a man was seen threatening a woman against going to cast her vote. She, however, was seen not yielding to the pressure. The ECI later sought a report from local authorities, and the accused man was arrested, reported PTI.
At least one person was injured when crude bombs were lobbed outside a polling station in Canning Purba assembly seat. TMC candidate Shaukat Mollah accused Abbas Siddiqui-led Indian Secular Front (ISF) for the attack, a charge denied by the party.
TMC turncoat and BJP candidate from Diamond Harbour seat, Dipak Haldar alleged that his former party is not allowing voters to come to polling stations while in Dhanekhali, Patra accused the Central forces of high-handedness and alleged that voters were being stopped from going to polling stations by BJP "goons". The saffron party however dismissed the allegation.
Hours before polling, Madhabi Adak, a BJP supporter's family member was allegedly killed in Hooghly district, while trying to protect the family member from a few men who barged into their house, police said. Adak's family alleged that the TMC was behind the incident, a charge denied by the ruling party.
Another unpalatable incident that marred polling in the eastern state was reported from Howarah, where EVM and VVPAT machines were recovered from the home of a TMC candidate. The incident happened in Tulsiberia village in the Uluberia Uttar assembly segment, where Villagers spotted a vehicle with an Election Commission sticker outside the house of the TMC leader in the early hours, after which they started protesting.
Then, it was found that the officer of sector 17 Tapan Sarkar was visiting the TMC leader's house with the EVMs, the official said. The EVMs and VVPATs were seized and the officer was suspended. The sector officer claimed that he reached the area very late and found the polling booth closed, following that he decided to spend the night at his relative's residence, unable to find any "safe place" to stay.
In Tamil Nadu, where single-phase elections were held in 234 seats, 65.11 percent voter turnout was recorded according to the EC's 7 pm provisional data.
Although polling was peaceful largely, the southern state did witness complaints of election malpractices and Model Code of Conduct violations.
In the early afternoon, Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan lodged a complaint with polling officials in the Coimbatore South constituency, alleging that the BJP was distributing cash for votes, reported The Quint. According to the report, Haasan claimed he had evidence of the electoral malpractice, where chit which could be exchanged for cash were distributed in a ward in Kempatti colony and also alleged that the BJP candidate Vanathi Srinivasan could have links to the practice.
The BJP candidate denied the allegations and alleged that the Congress, MNM and other parties were engaging in drama as they had sensed their defeat.
Congress, Maiam and others making drama as if we are distributing tokens, sensing their defeat.
It is being stage managed to defame my volunteers and party cadres and to attribute reasons for my victory.
No truth in the allegation. I strongly deny and condemn the false complaints
— Vanathi Srinivasan (@VanathiBJP) April 6, 2021
Meanwhile, BJP candidate from Thousand Lights constituency Khushbu Sundar also alleged that the DMK was distributing cash to voters and said a complaint was lodged with the EC, reported news agency ANI.
A complaint was also lodged against DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin for wearing a shirt with party logo while casting his vote, reported ANI.
Tamil Nadu: AIADMK's Babu Murugavel filed a complaint against DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin for wearing a shirt with party logo while casting his vote earlier today.
(File photo) pic.twitter.com/QJ5Lxl2i2j
— ANI (@ANI) April 6, 2021
Assam polling largely peaceful
Polling remained largely peaceful in Assam, where 82.33 percent of the 79,19 eligible voters exercised their franchise to elect candidates from 40 constituencies in the third and last phase of the Assembly election, as per EC's provisional data. However, there were incidents of violence and disturbances in some areas, officials said.
Polling at a station at Dighaltari lower primary school at Golakganj was briefly halted as a clash was reported between two groups. Police resorted to lathi-charge and firing in the air to control the situation but none was injured, an official told PTI.
Police also resorted to lathi-charge at a booth in Guptipara in Bilasipara where a group of people attacked security personnel over the distribution of free masks and threw stones at the polling station. Voting was interrupted for about half an hour but later resumed normally, officials told PTI.
In a polling booth in Bongaigaon, there was lathi-charge by the police when a huge crowd arrived, an official said while at another polling station in the constituency, police brought the situation under control as a commotion broke out when the presiding officer went to help a differently-abled person to cast his vote
In another incident police detained at least two persons from a polling booth at Kamrup Academy Higher Secondary School in Guwahati for allegedly distributing BJP pamphlets carrying minister Siddhartha Bhattacharya's pictures.
Around 10 people have been detained from different constituencies where voting is on, officials said. EVM malfunctioning was reported in several polling centers and voting in them resumed after the machines were replaced, they said.
BJP ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Siddhartha Bhattacharya and Phanibhushan Choudhury, who are in the fray in this stage, cast their votes at their respective polling centres in the morning hours.
Other prominent personalities who exercised their franchise included BPF ministers Chandan Brahma and Pramila Rani Brahma party chief Hagrama Mohilary, Congress leader Ratul Patowary and state election icon and actor Kopil Bora.
Kerala witnessed heavy polling despite scorching Heat and rains in some part of the state. Barring some technical glitches, stray instances of violence and sporadic complaints of bogus voting, the election exercise was conducted in an orderly manner. According to the EC's 7 pm data, the state recorded 69.95 percent polling till 7 pm.
Isolated incidents of altercation between rival party activists were reported in some places in the state including in Kattayikonam in Kazhakootam constituency, a stronghold of the Marxist party in Thiruvananthapuram district, as CPM and BJP workers clashed.
Four BJP workers were injured and their car was damaged.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is the LDF candidate from the constituency, told reporters that the aim of the protestors was to disrupt the voting procedure and alleged that police had acted as "BJP agent".
Three Marxist workers, including the minister's personal staff, have been taken into custody.
On the polling day also, sparks also flew over the Sabarimala issue with the LDF and UDF locking horns.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the devotees of Lord Ayyappa and all other gods will be with the LDF, while Congress leader, Ramesh Chennithala, opined that bhaktas will not forgive the Left Front, which will face Ayyappa's wrath.
Kerala had witnessed violent protests by activists of BJP and right-wing outfits after the LDF government decided to implement the 2018 Supreme court verdict allowing women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, where traditionally women in the menstruating age group of 10-50 are banned from worshipping.
Vijayan (Dharmadam), leader of Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala (Haripad), senior Congress leader Oommen Chandy (Puthupally), BJP state president, K Surendran (Konni and Manjeswaram) and 'Metro Man' E Sreedharan, (Palakkad) were among those in fray.
Besides Vijayan, 11 of his cabinet colleagues are among the 957 candidates in the poll arena.
Former chief minister Oommen Chandy (Puthupally), opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala (Haripad), BJP state president K Surendran, contesting from Koni and Manjeshwar and 'Metroman' E Sreedharan (Palakkad) and nine film and television actors are also in the fray.
Brisk voting was witnessed in the Union Territory of Puducherry where single phase elections are being held to 30 Assembly constituencies.
The Union Territory registered a voter turnout of 78.03 percent, according to the Election Commission's 7 pm update. Earlier in the day, news agency PTI reported that Yanam, where the AINRC leader N Rangasamy is contesting, registered a higher percentage of polling than the other three regions - Mahe, Karaikal and Puducherry — from the beginning. Rangasamy is also seeking election to the territorial Assembly from the Thattanchavady segment in the Puducherry region.
The contest is keen between the AINRC-led NDA and the Congress-led Secular Democratic alliance.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy, however, bowed out of the poll contest on the ground that he had to coordinate poll-related work in the union territory. He had also claimed at a recent press meet that the high command had asked him to contest but had refrained the contest only to coordinate poll-related works.
The NDA, however, had claimed that the Congress high command had refused ticket to Narayanasamy in spite of his long service in the party. The BJP and AIADMK are the other constituents of the AINRC-led NDA in the UT.
While AINRC fielded candidates in 16 of the total 30 constituencies the BJP is aspiring to annex nine seats while the AIADMK is contesting from five seats. The Congress has fielded candidates in 14 out of the 15 seats earmarked to it.
The national party is supporting an independent in Yanam.
The DMK, its main alliance partner, has fielded candidates in 13 seats and the VCK and CPI are contesting from one constituency each.
With inputs from agencies
The former Congress chief will speak at the ‘Ideas for India’ conference. He will also interact with the Indian diaspora on what the present and future hold for the country
Congress needs regional parties, shouldn't attack them: Rahul Gandhi's remarks at Chintan Shivir irk allies
Addressing Congress leaders at the brainstorming camp in Udaipur, Rahul Gandhi said that regional parties lack ideology and cannot fight the BJP-RSS team. He believes it is the Indian National Congress party which can do it
In his address at his party’s 'Chintan Shivir'in Udaipur, Rahul had claimed that regional parties cannot fight the BJP and the RSS as they lack ideology