Lok Sabha Election 2019, Final Phase of voting: West Bengal witnesses minor clashes, records close to 65% turnout till 5 pm
Voting in West Bengal came to an end on Sunday with the last of the seven phases of the 2019 Lok Sabha election drawing to a close
Nine constituencies went to the polls in the state on Sunday — Barasat, Basirhat, Dum Dum, Diamond Harbour, Joynagar, Jadavpur, Mathurapur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar
A bomb exploded outside booths 66 and 67 in Deganga that falls under the Basirhat parliamentary constituency
In the early hours of voting, polling was delayed for at least half an hour in the Kolkata Dakshin constituency at the City College polling station in booths 153 and 156 due to EVM malfunctions
Kolkata: Voting in West Bengal came to an end on Sunday with the last of the seven phases of the 2019 Lok Sabha election drawing to a close. Nine constituencies went to the polls in the state on Sunday — Barasat, Basirhat, Dum Dum, Diamond Harbour, Joynagar, Jadavpur, Mathurapur, Kolkata Dakshin and Kolkata Uttar. Like the other six phases of polling since April, the state witnessed incidents of violence between different party workers, especially between those from the TMC and BJP. However, the intensity of violence was comparatively lower than earlier.
The state recorded 64.87 percent of voting till 5 pm. Basirhat constituency recorded the highest polling percentage in the state at 72.07 percent, while North Kolkata saw 55 percent voting as of 5 pm. On Sunday, a bomb exploded outside booths 66 and 67 in Deganga that falls under the Basirhat parliamentary constituency. According to witnesses, unidentified men came riding on a bike and hurled a few bombs at the voting booths. As soon as security forces rushed in, they left the bike and fled. Tollywood actress Nusrat Jahan is the much-criticised TMC candidate from Basirhat, while the BJP candidate from the constituency is Sayanta Bose. Also, just before the polling day, a massive bombing was reported from the Mathurapur constituency's Raidighi area, which recorded a 69.39 percent voter turnout as of 5 pm.
BJP North Kolkata candidate, Rahul Sinha, was greeted with slogans and posters that read "Go back!" at Dr Ambedkar Vidyalaya. Sinha was allegedly stopped by TMC workers who did not allow him to enter the polling booth. In the midst of all of this, the media was also attacked and a journalist sustained some injuries to the head.
In the Jadavpur constituency, the BJP candidate Anupam Hazra's car was allegedly attacked by TMC workers near South 24 Parganas. The car's windshield was shattered and Hazra escaped with minor injuries. He was travelling with BJP Yuva Morcha workers who were in separate cars. The other key candidates in the constituency are Mimi Chakraborty of the TMC and Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya of the CPM. Jadavpur saw 62 percent polling as of 5 pm.
Nilanjan Roy, BJP candidate for Diamond Harbour, was allegedly attacked by TMC workers in Budge Budge. His convoy was attacked and car vandalised. For this seat, the Congress fielded Soumya Aich Roy, while the CPM fielded Fuwad Halim. However, candidate in the spotlight is TMC's Abhishek Banerjee — Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew — who has been fielded for this seat.
Taking this into consideration, a BJP delegation led by vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar and Sishir Bajoria, a member of the Election Committee, met the Chief Election Officer (CEO) of West Bengal at around 3.30 pm to discuss various discrepancies in the seventh phase.
In the early hours of voting, polling was delayed for at least half an hour in the Kolkata Dakshin constituency at the City College polling station in booths 153 and 156 due to EVM malfunctions. Senior citizens who waited in line since 6 am to cast their votes expressed their displeasure over the delay. "We, as senior citizens, cannot just wait here for so long," said Swami Aditya Banerjee, who was visibly annoyed at the delay caused. Similar cases of EVM malfunction and polling delay were also reported from booth number 132 in Panihati, under the Dum Dum constituency, and at booths 100 and 88 in Barasat constituency's Habra South region.
Dum Dum recorded 65.24 percent, Kolkata Dakshin 58.66 percent, and Barasat saw 65.38 percent polling percentage as of 5 pm.
Voters also complained of alleged rigging and being manhandled by unidentified party workers. Women voters from Nupur High Madrasa polling station under the Diamond Harbour constituency were allegedly manhandled by the Central security forces because of which a big mob of villagers gathered outside the booth. Diamond Harbour recorded 69 percent polling percentage and Joynagar was at 66.4 percent as of 5 pm.
TMC candidate Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar was caught arguing with Central forces at booth 104 of Barasat constituency. She was there after hearing of the chaos as BJP workers were agitating there and alleging that TMC men are trying to rig polls. Dastidar is up against BJP's Mrinal Kanti Debnath.
The situation was tense as allegations of rigging were brought by the BJP at booths 32 and 33 in Ashoknagar and Bhurkunda area of Barasat constituency. A large force of policemen and CRPF personnel were deployed to control the situation. The woman polling agent of the BJP alleged that she was spoken to in an abusive language when she tried to resist the rigging by TMC men.
Expectations from the new government
As voters thronged polling booths in large numbers, they also expressed their hope from the government that would come to power. Prapan Kumar Guha, 30, arrived early in the morning to cast his vote in a booth near Tribarna Sangha Kasba in the Kolkata Dakshin LS constituency. Guha said he is concerned about jobs and the economy of the state. Since he was forced to work outside West Bengal, Guha hopes the new government would improve industrialisation in the state to increase jobs; he also disapproves of the youth working outside the state, claiming the present government has not worked enough towards industrialisation.
However, there were other voters like Tapan Chakraborty, 70, who did not show much enthusiasm as he stood in the line to vote. "Issues don't matter as whoever wins, common people will have to suffer," he said. He added that at this point, voters have to choose the best among the worst. Important candidates from Kolkata Dakshin constituency include Subrata Bakshi fielded by the TMC, Nandini Mukherjee of CPM and Chandra Kumar Bose of BJP. Bose is the grand-nephew of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
With inputs from A Ghose and SS Parveen
The author is a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
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