KMC Polls 2021: 63.63% turnout amid sporadic violence; BJP accuses TMC of 'foul play'
Abhishek Banerjee said that if any ruling party leader was found to be involved in violence during the polls, strict action will be taken 'within 24 hours'
Sporadic incidents of violence including hurling of bombs at two booths and skirmishes between political workers marred an otherwise humdrum polling to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) as 63.37 per cent of the nearly 40.5 lakh voters exercised their franchise till 5 pm on Sunday, when voting ended.
While the State Election Commission and the police described the elections as "peaceful", the Opposition BJP demanded cancellation of the "violence-marred polls".
Two incidents of hurling of crude bombs were reported in Kolkata's Sealdah and Khanna areas. Police contingents were rushed to the spot to bring the situation under control. "A total of 63.63 per cent of total votes were polled till 5 PM. Polling has by and large been peaceful barring a few incidents," State Election Commissioner Sourav Das said.
The final voter turnout will be available on Monday as there were still people in queue to vote at 5 PM when the polls ended, SEC officials said. Although the SEC claimed that only one person was injured, police said three people were injured in the bomb attacks, one of them losing a leg.
Police said that 72 people have been arrested so far for disturbing the peace during the polling period. Trinamool Congress national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said that if any ruling party leader was found to be involved in violence during the polls, strict action will be taken "within 24 hours".
"We don't support any form of violence, and strict action will be taken within 24 hours if any TMC leader is found to be stopping the process of free and fair polls. I would request the media to come out with related footage and evidence (if available)," he told reporters after casting his vote.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said that his security personnel stayed outside the booth when he went to cast his vote during the polls, in adherence to an order of the state election commissioner.
He said peaceful polling with no fear in the minds of voters and absence of interference of the state apparatus are at the heart of any election process.
"My security personnel adhered to the order issued on Saturday night… State Election Commissioner Sourav Das allowed the facility to only two persons -- Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee," he said.
"I had called Sourav Das twice and tried to impress upon him that polling should be held peacefully and without fear, and the administration should not interfere in any manner in this," Dhankhar said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee earlier told ANI Kolkata Police is "carrying out its duties efficiently."
Kolkata Civic polls | Voter turnout recorded till now is over 50%. I am happy people voted peacefully. Kolkata Police is carrying out its duties efficiently: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee pic.twitter.com/wcMFE1FMp7
— ANI (@ANI) December 19, 2021
The Opposition BJP and the CPI(M) alleged that the TMC has forcibly stopped Opposition booth agents from entering polling centres in several wards, a charge that the ruling party termed as "baseless".
CPI(M) activists staged a road blockade in Bagha Jatin area alleging that their polling agents were not allowed inside the booths.
The BJP state leadership announced that it will conduct peaceful demonstrations across the state in protest against "violence and malpractices" in the polls.
Leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari who led a delegation of BJP MLAs to meet Governor Dhankar, demanded "cancellation of the entire poll process" as the election has been turned into a farce by the ruling dispensation.
"We will stage peaceful sit-in demonstrations across the state against the ongoing violence (in the KMC polls). The way looting of votes took place with the active help of state administration is shameful for our democracy. This is the reason we had asked for central forces to ensure free and fair polls," BJP state spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said.
Former Kolkata mayor and senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim dismissed the allegations as "baseless and politically motivated".
"The BJP knows they will face defeat in the elections. So, they are now making such excuses. The elections have been very peaceful, barring few small incidents," he said.
Before this, high drama was witnessed outside a Salt Lake area residence where Adhikari was holding a meeting with party MLAs, after the Bidhannagar city police cordoned off the entire area and stopped him from leaving for Raj Bhawan, where he was scheduled to meet the Governor.
"The police of this TMC government didn't allow me to leave. We were illegally kept under house arrest. I condemn it. Later they allowed," he said.
Reacting to allegations, Hakim said, "none of these leaders are residents of Kolkata. So they will not be allowed in the city as per the rules on a polling day."
He said the BJP is falsely claiming the opposition leader, and 20 others are under house arrest. Some BJP MLAs also claimed that the gates of the MLA hostel in Kolkata were locked.
Echoing the BJP's allegations on violence, Left Front Chairman Biman Bose said the Left would organize a two-day long demonstration across the state from Monday.
In ward no. 22, BJP's sitting councillor and former deputy mayor of Kolkata, Mina Devi Purohit alleged that she was attacked by TMC activists, an allegation that the ruling party denied.
In ward no. 45, Congress alleged the TMC has brought in fake voters and a scuffle ensued between workers of both the parties.
The grand old party alleged that Amitabha Chakraborti, the election agent of Congress councillor Santosh Pathak, was beaten up by TMC activists inside the booth.
In Jain School booth of the ward, clashes were reported between TMC and Congress activists inside the booth. The police later brought the situation under control.
The TMC, during the run-up to the KMC polls, had warned party candidates against using force during the civic polls, and said that those found to be involved in violence would be thrown out of the party.
"The incidents of hurling of crude bombs and violence in some areas prove that TMC's instruction to its candidates was just on pen and paper and nothing was implemented on the ground," CPI(M) leader Sayandeep Mitra said.
TMC leader Partha Bhowmick dubbed the allegations as baseless and said "polling has been peaceful in all the KMC wards", and those who have hurled bombs would be "identified and arrested" by the police.
Meanwhile, In an attack on a section of state BJP leadership, party's Rajya Sabha MP Rupa Ganguly on Sunday said there could be some truth behind rival charges that "money changed hands" while fielding some candidates from her own party for the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls.
Voting began at 7 AM in 4,949 polling centres with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols amid tight security. A total of 40,48,357 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to seal the fate of 950 candidates in the fray.
The SEC has declared 1,139 of the 4,949 polling centres as "sensitive".
A total of 23,500 Kolkata Police personnel have been deployed across the city, and route marches and area domination exercises were conducted in various parts of the metropolis, an officer of the force said.
He said that more than 200 police pickets have also been set up at crucial points across the city.
The ruling Trinamool Congress is fighting to retain the civic board for the third consecutive term, while the BJP will contest CPI(M) to secure the second position. The TMC had swept all the 16 assembly segments in the metropolis in this year's assembly elections.
The counting of votes will take place on 21 December.
With inputs from agencies
In the wake of fresh tensions in the area, an investigation is underway to nab the culprits. Just a week ago, two persons were attacked by unidentified people and their bike was set on fire in the Sanganer area of Bhilwara
GhoseSpot | A tale of two Shivirs: How BJP is setting agenda for 25 years, but Congress is busy sorting family issues
Like the BJP, the Congress too just concluded a conclave of its senior leaders called ‘Chintan Shivir’— coincidentally also in Rajasthan, at Udaipur
Babul Supriyo sworn in as TMC MLA by Bengal Assembly deputy speaker, after Governor denied to change decision
The speaker is nominated by the Governor to swear in new member of the assembly. However, Jagdeep Dhankhar had decided to name the deputy speaker for the job, and despite repeated pleas by Babul Surpiyo, the governor had decided to stick to his decision