West Bengal polls: 78.40% turnout in Phase 5 amid sporadic violence; BJP accuses Mamata of trying to 'instigate riots'

Some voters in the Kurulgacha area of the Deganga constituency accused the Central forces of opening fire 'to disburse a mob' near a polling booth

FP Staff April 17, 2021 20:58:38 IST
West Bengal polls: 78.40% turnout in Phase 5 amid sporadic violence; BJP accuses Mamata of trying to 'instigate riots'

The fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly polls was conducted on Saturday. Twitter@CEOWestBengal

The fifth phase of the eight-phased West Bengal Assembly polls was conducted in 45 constituencies amid sporadic violence and a row over a purported audio clip shared by the BJP against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

As of 7.30 pm, the overall voter turnout in the state was 78.40 percent, according to the Election Commission's Voter Turnout app. District-wise, the highest polling was seen in Jalpaiguri with 81.71 percent, while the lowest was recorded in Kalimpong with 69.56 percent. In terms of constituencies, Maynaguri reported the highest 85.65 percent polling while Bidhannagar reported the lowest 61.10 percent turnout.

The voter turnout in the last four phases of the Assembly election in the state was 84.13 percent, 86.11 percent, 84.61 percent, and 78.43 percent, respectively.

A total of 1,13,47,344 people were eligible to vote in the phase 5 polls for 45 seats. Of them, 57,35,766 were men, 56,11,354 women and 224 of the third gender.

At many places, voters were seen without masks amid the resurgent coronavirus, raising concerns. The security forces ensured social distancing at the booths, while election officials provided masks, hand sanitiser and polythene gloves to the voters.

The polling started at 7 am and continued till 6.30 pm in 15,789 stations across the six districts. The EC has deployed 853 companies of central forces in this phase.

After polling ended on Saturday, the Election Commission said that the fifth phase had seen a "huge turnout of women voters", according to Business Standard.

A row erupted in political circles of the state on Saturday after the BJP released an audio clip purportedly of Banerjee in which she allegedly etlls the Trinamool Congress candidate of the Sitalkuchi constituency to hold rallies with the bodies of the four people killed in the CISF firing during polling on 10 April.

Claiming that such a conversation never took place, the TMC described the audio clip as "bogus" and wondered whether the Centre is tapping a chief ministers phone.

Firstpost could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio clip, which was released on the eve of the fifth phase of the polls.

Accusing Banerjee of trying to "instigate riots", BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya released excerpts of the telephonic conversation between the TMC chief and Partha Pratim Ray, the party's candidate in the Sitalkuchi seat.

"She is heard asking her party candidate to frame the case in such a way that both the superintendent of police (of Cooch Behar) and other central forces personnel can be framed. Is this expected from a chief minister? She is trying to instil a sense of fear just for minority votes," he said.

Voters allege Central forces opened fire in Degang constituency; BJP, TMC clash in Bidhannagar

Amid the controversy over the CISF firing on voters during the phase 4 election, sporadic incidents of violence were reported from some areas of the districts that went to the polls on Saturday.

These districts were North 24 Parganas, Purba Bardhaman, and Nadia in south Bengal, and Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the north.

In the Kurulgacha area of the Deganga constituency, which saw a turnout of 82.30 percent as of 7.30 pm, some voters accused Central forces of opening fire "to disburse a mob" near a polling booth, PTI reported.

The CAPF, which came under criticism from the Opposition after the Sitalkuchi firing on 10 April, denied the allegations.

"Everything is fine here. Polling is undergoing very peacefully. There was no incident of firing anywhere in Deganga," a central force officer said.

However, the CEO office, following allegations and media reports, sought a report from the observer, the PTI report added.

"We have received video footage from the media regarding central forces opening fire while disbursing a group of villagers who had gathered near a booth in Deganga's Kurulgacha. We have sought a report from the observer," the official said.

Additionally, a clash broke out between the TMC and BJP supporters in the Shantinagar area of Bidhannagar, with both sides accusing each other of hampering voters from going to the polling booths. Bricks and stones were hurled, injuring eight people, officials said.

A huge contingent of central forces was rushed to the spot to control the situation. TMC MLA Sujit Bose and BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta visited the spot to take stock of the situation.

In the Baranagar seat, BJP candidate and actor Parno Mitra was surrounded allegedly by TMC activists while she was touring the constituency.

The TMC has denied the allegations and claimed that she was trying to influence the voters on the day of voting. Mitra alleged that TMC activists misbehaved with her, following which she lodged a complaint with the EC.

A brick was thrown on the car of another BJP candidate, Raju Banerjee, who is contesting the election from the Kamarhati constituency.

In Siliguri, a scuffle broke out between TMC and CPM supporters outside a polling booth.

In Santipur in Nadia district, the TMC alleged that personnel of the Central forces were asking voters to go back, a charge rubbished by the authorities.

Further, the TMC alleged that a polling booth in the Bardhaman Uttar constituency was captured by the BJP. The allegation was denied by the saffron party, while poll officials said that no such incident has happened.

In the Kalyani constituency in Nadia district, the police and Central forces had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse TMC and BJP activists, who were clashing over voters being allegedly not allowed to go to the booths.

A BJP worker was critically injured allegedly after crude bombs were hurled at him by TMC activists while he was returning home after casting his vote in the Gayeshpur constituency. The ruling party in the state denied the allegation, while a large contingent of Central forces was sent to the area to control the situation.

In Bijpur in North 24 Parganas, TMC and BJP supporters clashed after the saffron party alleged that voters were being prevented from going to the booths.

The BJP also alleged that some of its booth agents in the Minakhan constituency in the same district were "kidnapped" by the TMC.

The TMC said the BJP does not have enough strength to depute agents in all the booths, which is why it was levelling such "baseless" allegations.

Additionally, a BJP booth agent died after falling sick at a polling station in the North 24 Parganas district on Saturday morning, prompting the Election Commission to seek a report, reports said.

Abhijit Samanta, the BJP agent of booth number 107 in the Kamarhati Assembly constituency, fell sick within an hour of polling. Samanta was declared brought dead when taken to a hospital.

Voters waiting in the queue at the booth alleged that Samanta was not attended by poll officials and the Central forces personnel initially despite complaining of chest pain and vomiting, PTI reported.

War of words between BJP, TMC over 'audio tape'

Addressing a rally in Asansol and Gangarampur while the fifth phase of polls was underway in other constituencies, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that the TMC has been "broken" in the first four phases of elections, and asserted that Banerjee and her nephew will be "vanquished" by the end of polling in the state.

Modi also claimed the Trinamool Congress chief has an "old habit of playing politics with dead bodies" and has been "trying to politicise the unfortunate deaths" of four people at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district on 10 April.

Modi said the West Bengal chief minister's insensitivity was evident once again in connection with the Cooch Behar firing while referring to an audio tape that went viral on Friday.

"The truth is that Didi thought of her own political gain from the death of people in Cooch Behar. She has an old habit of doing politics with dead bodies," he alleged.

On the other hand, Banerjee said that her government will order a CID probe into whether her phone is being tapped. Addressing an election rally in Galsi, she accused the BJP of being involved in the conspiracy as the saffron party "cannot match" the ruling Trinamool Congress' campaigning on development programmes.

"They (BJP leaders) are even eavesdropping on our everyday conversation. It seems they are tapping our phone calls on cooking and other household chores. I will order a CID probe into it and not spare anyone involved in such snooping activities. I have already come to know who is behind this," the TMC chief said.

Banerjee also claimed she has information that the "Central forces are being involved in such acts with some agents".

"It is clear that the BJP is behind it though they claimed they have no role in it," she said.

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