West Bengal Election 2021: TMC, BJP allege attacks on candidates; EVMs found at TMC leader's home
The ruling Trinamool Congress on Tuesday accused the BJP workers of attacking party leader Sujata Mondal near a polling booth and urged the Election Commission to take action against the 'goons'
West Bengal on Tuesday witnessed sporadic instances of disruption and complaints as voting took place in 31 Assembly segments in the third phase of election in the state. As per Election Commission’s provisional data, 77.68 percent of 78.5 lakh voters exercised their franchise till the end of polling.
In this phase of the state Assembly polls, elections were held in parts of rural Howrah, the Sunderban region, the Diamond Harbour and Baruipur belts in the South 24 Parganas, and parts of the Hooghly district.
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.
In all, 10,871 polling stations were set up in the Assembly constituencies, where polling was held from 7 am to 6.30 pm.
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 on Tuesday alleged "blatant misuse" of central forces 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
She shared a screengrab of a scuffle between BJP and TMC supporters in the Goghat constituency.
She claimed that central forces "assaulted" voters in several constituencies where polling was underway, "instructing" them to vote for the BJP. Banerjee also alleged that BJP forcibly occupied polling booths and attacked TMC candidates.
Addressing a public meeting in the Alipurduar district, the TMC boss accused the Election Commission of turning a blind eye to the "excesses" of the CRPF, CISF, BSF and the ITBP.
"They are beating and torturing people since morning. They are saying 'BJP ko vote do' (vote for the BJP)," the chief minister said.
On the other hand, 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.
"TMC men are not allowing BJP supporters to come out and vote freely, and unfortunately, the central forces are mute spectators," he said. The ruling party in the state has dubbed the allegations as "baseless".
Sporadic violence reported in third phase of Bengal polls
In the Dhanekhali seat, state minister Asima Patra accused the central forces of high-handedness and alleged that voters were being stopped from coming to the polling stations by the BJP "goons", an allegation dismissed by the saffron party.
In Khanakul, TMC candidate Najmul Karim was allegedly assaulted by the BJP activists and slogans were raised against him. Later, central forces rescued him from the area.
A BJP supporter's family member was allegedly killed in Hooghly district, hours before the commencement of polling in the area, police said.
Madhabi Adak succumbed to her injuries sustained while protecting her son from a few men who barged into their house, they said. Adak's family accused that the TMC was behind the incident, a charge denied by the ruling party.
TMC accuses BJP workers of attacking party candidate in Arambagh
Police arrested five persons – three members of the TMC and two of the BJP – for their alleged involvement in assaulting TMC's Sujata Mondal, the candidate from Arasmbagh, earlier on Tuesday, a police officer said.
Police also said they had launched a search for those who assaulted Papiya Adhikary, the BJP candidate from Uluberia (Dakshin) Assembly seat, when she visited Uluberia hospital to call on an injured party candidate.
The attacks were part of a series of clashes that were reported from several parts of Bengal, where polling is underway in the third phase of assembly elections.
BJP candidate for Tarakeshwar Swapan Dasgupta was also allegedly abused by TMC supporters while going on a round of polling stations, party sources said.
Mondal, said she was chased and hit on the head by saffron party men, when she was out visiting polling booths in Arandi area of the constituency, after having received reports that voters were not being allowed to exercise the franchise.
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
"My bodyguards saved my life. I came to know that BJP members were thwarting people from casting their votes in Arandi. I went there to find out what went wrong. I was assaulted, hit with bamboo sticks by the saffron party men," Mondal, estranged wife of BJP MP Saumitra Khan, said.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien wrote to the EC, asking it to apprehend the BJP “goons” and take action against the CRPF personnel for being a silent spectator to the incident.
“Goons of BJP attacked TMC candidate Sujata Mondal at Arandi-I booth number 263 Mahallapara. Her personal security officer has suffered injuries on the head and is in a critical state. CRPF personnel were silent spectators,” ANI quoted the TMC leader as saying.
In yet another incident, TMC candidate Dr Nirmal Maji was heckled and his vehicle attacked when he tried visiting a booth in Uluberia (Uttar) assembly constituency.
Majhi was made to wear a helmet and escorted out of the troubled area by the police.
One of his security guards sustained serious injuries when bricks were hurled at him, a police officer said, adding that he is currently undergoing treatment at a local hospital.
EVMs found at TMC leader’s house
Four EVMs and a similar number of VVPATs were found at the house of a Trinamool Congress leader in West Bengal's Howrah district, following which a poll official was suspended, a senior officer said on Tuesday. The incident happened in Tulsiberia village in the Uluberia Uttar assembly segment, he said.
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, he added.
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 suspended, he said.
"The four machines are not being used in today's polling. We have sought a report from the District Election Officer," he added.
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.
A huge team of central forces had to be deployed in the area as the locals protested, alleging malpractices. Even the Block Development Officer (BDO) was gheraoed when he had reached the spot to pacify the crowd.
Meanwhile, the BJP on Tuesday demanded an independent inquiry from the Election Commission after electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT machines that were found in the TMC candidate's house.
With inputs from PTI
Former MLA and minister in the state Madhwaraj had tendered his resignation from the primary membership of the Congress party earlier in the day
Addressing a seminar on 'Threat of Dynastic Parties to Democratic Governance', Nadda said dynastic parties, where a person's interest reigns supreme, lack ideology and are a threat to the idea of democracy
The centre will conduct research and studies for better resource mobilisation, public expenditure rationalisation and enhancement of efficiency in public expenditure and debt management