West Bengal Election 2021: Over 80% turnout amidst reports of violence, jamming; EC seeks report on Mamata's Nandigram plaints
Sporadic violence and minor clashes were reported from various constituencies, including the high profile Nandigram, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee is locked in a high- stakes electoral battle with her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari now with the BJP
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is fighting a prestige battle against her protege-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, visited several booths across the constituency on Thursday as sporadic incidents of violence and allegations of booth jamming marred the voting process in the second phase of the state Assembly polls.
Meanwhile, according to the Election Commission's voter app, as per the latest trends, West Bengal recorded 80.43 percent voter turnout. However, this number is likely to increase as the EC is set to announce the final numbers later today.
The Election Commission of India also sought a detailed report from the administration in connection with an incident of violence in Boyal area in Nandigram.
The Election Commission (EC) cited the report of its general observer in West Bengal on Thursday to say voting was not disrupted at any moment at polling station number 7 in Nandigram, from where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting.
In a statement, the commission said "many sections of media have been covering the incident of alleged gherao of Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal and crowding at Polling Station No. 7 at 210 Nandigram AC (assembly constituency) today that inter alia resulted in disruption of poll process".
It said general observer Hemen Das, an IAS officer, and police observer Ashutosh Roy (IPS) were asked to go to the spot immediately. The panel said the general observer's report was received at 4.06 pm.
The statement quoted the report: "... Polling at PS no 7 (Boyal Moktab Primary School) is going on smoothly. Hon'ble CM, who is also a contesting candidate, has left the place at about 3.35 pm after staying here for nearly one and half hour. It may kindly be noted that polling was not disrupted at any moment."
The observer said nearly 3,000 people were there when he and the police observer reached the polling station. "All have left now," he said in his report.
The EC statement also said a separate handwritten complaint was received from the chief minister via the chief electoral officer (CEO) of West Bengal late in the afternoon.
The same has been forwarded to Special General Observer Ajay Nayak and Special Police Observer Vivek Dube under intimation to CEO. They have been asked to send a report by 6 pm on Friday.
Voting was held in 30 Assembly Constituencies of West Bengal for 76 lakh voters across 10,620 polling stations in Phase 2 of the election.
Both Suvendu and Mamata remain confident about their chances from Nandigram, as per The Indian Express.
An agitated Banerjee slammed the Election Commission for not taking any action despite lodging several complaints including "booth capturing" and massive fake voting in Boyal threatened to move the court.
"We have lodged 63 complaints since morning. But not a single action has been taken. We will move court over it. This is unacceptable. The EC is working as per Amit Shah's instructions," she claimed while sitting outside booth number 7 in Boyal in Nandigram, where her partymen alleged many voters were unable to cast their ballot.
"Goons from other states are creating ruckus here," she alleged.
Banerjee also rang up the West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to complain about the situation.
Dhankar tweeted this soon afterwards:
Issues flagged @MamataOfficial a while ago on phone have been imparted to the concerned.
There is full assurance of the concerned to adherence to rule of law.
Am confident all will act in right spirit and earnestness so that democracy flourishes.
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) April 1, 2021
The constituencies where polls are being conducted include nine seats each in Purba and Paschim Medinipur districts, eight in Bankura and four in South 24 Parganas. Strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols has been ensured in all places, officials said.
Nandigram sees violence despite Section 144 being imposed
Both Banerjee and Adhikari fanned out to various polling booths in Nandigram to take stock of the situation after reports of stray violence and booth "jamming", a bid by workers of one party to crowd out voters from a polling booth by forming long queues.
These incidents occurred despite the Nandigram constituency being placed under Section 144 to contain possible violence. In the Boyal area in Nandigram, villagers alleged that BJP supporters had stopped them from going to the polling booths.
As soon as Banerjee reached Boyal, BJP supporters greeted her with "Jai Shri Ram" slogans. Supporters of BJP and TMC allegedly engaged in violence, as TMC leaders demanded re-polling in booth number 7 of the village.
Police and Rapid Action Force were rushed to the spot to control the situation, amidst alleged stone-pelting.
However, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh dubbed the allegations as baseless. "The allegations are baseless. It seems she has accepted the defeat," he said.
According to EC officials said they would look into the complaints. Around 57 percent of electors exercised their franchise till 1 PM in the agrarian constituency in Purba Medinipur district, an Election Commission official said.
A TMC election agent's mother was seen pleading before the EC officials not to ask her son to go to the election booth and alleged that he has been "threatened last night by Opposition parties".
Protesters also blocked the road in Nandigram's Block 1, alleging Central forces stopped them from going to the polling stations. "The CRPF personnel accompanying Suvendu Adhikari stopped us from casting our votes," a protester said.
On the other hand, Suvendu Adhikari's car was attacked, and stones were pelted while he was visiting booths in the Assembly constituency.
Two separate stone-pelting incidents took place in Takapura and Satengabari in Nandigram. His vehicle was gheraoed at various locations as TMC supporters shouted slogans against the BJP leader. Security forces patrolling the area dispersed the mob.
"I am used to such protests by TMC goons. They are all followers of Mamata begum (Mamata Banerjee). Let them do whatever they want till the results are out on 2 May," Adhikari told reporters.
Adhikari even alleged that the West Bengal Chief Minister had pressurised district magistrate and sub-divisional officers in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, reports ANI.
“BJP candidate lost by 2,500 votes because votes of 16 EVMs were not counted,” says Adhikari. “BJP had won Jhargram and Purulia zila parishads but votes for lotus symbol were replaced with TMC symbol overnight.”
Sporadic incidents of violence reported
After a peaceful few hours of voting, the second phase of Assembly elections had turned chaotic when a BJP candidate’s convoy was attacked in the Keshpur area of Paschim Medinipur. A Trinamool Congress worker was also allegedly stabbed to death in the district earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate from Keshpur Assembly constituency Tanmay Ghosh's vehicle was vandalised allegedly by the Trinamool Congress supporters, police said. Three persons have been arrested in connection with the incident, they said.
Meanwhile, protesters blocking the road in Nandigram's Block 1 alleged that central forces stopped them from going to the polling stations. "The CRPF personnel accompanying Suvendu Adhikari stopped us from casting our votes," a protester claimed.
In the Gosaba area of South 24 Parganas, clashes were also reported between TMC and BJP supporters. While in the Mahisadal seat, the TMC alleged that BJP workers had stopped voters from going to the polling stations.
'Worried about democracy'
Despite sporadic violence and accusations of vote fraud in Nandigram, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee said she was confident of victory from the constituency where she had a one-and-half decade ago led a farmers' movement against a chemical hub planned by the then Left Front government.
The chief minister however said she is worried about the fate of democracy given the use of money and muscle power.
"I am not worried about Nandigram, I am confident of victory. (But) I am worried about democracy," Banerjee said as she showed the 'V' for victory sign to a gaggle of press photographers.
Banerjee is battling her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari, who has crossed over to the BJP for the prestigious Nandigram constituency.
The chief minister said home minister Shah who had earlier campaigned for Adhikari, should "control the BJP goons" and alleged Shah "was instructing central forces." "This is shameful. The people will give them a befitting reply. The way even women journalists have been heckled is disgraceful," she said.
Later, EC officials rushed to the spot and spoke to her and a police force was called in as she left the booth to tour other areas from where her partymen had complained of problems.
The TMC leadership, which has sought re-polling in booth number 7 at Boyal, also claimed that party activists were beaten up by BJP supporters. Adhikari denied the allegations levelled by the TMC.
Adhikari claimed Banerjee is insulting the voters of Nandigram. "It has become her habit to insult people of Nandigram. Earlier, she was injured in an accident, she blamed the locals. The people of Nandigram will not forget this insult," he said.
With inputs from PTI
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