Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from some areas where polling was held in the fifth phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal on Saturday, officials said. As per Election Commission of India (ECI), 78 per cent overall voter turnout was recorded till 5 pm.
Polling was conducted in 45 seats in North 24 Parganas, Purba Bardhaman and Nadia districts in South Bengal, and Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the North. The security personnel maintained a tight vigil and they addressed a few incidents that were reported, an election official said.
Villagers alleged that central forces opened fire to disburse a mob near a polling booth in Kurulgacha area of Deganga constituency in North 24 Parganas district. The central forces, however, 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 had said when polling was underway.
However, the CEO office, following allegations and media reports, sought a report from the observer, an official said. “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.
In Shantinagar area of Bidhannagar, a clash broke out between TMC and BJP supporters with both sides accusing each other of stopping the 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, they said. TMC MLA Sujit Bose and BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta visited the spot to take stock of the situation.
In Baranagar seat, BJP candidate and actor Parno Mitra was gheraoed 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. In Siliguri, a scuffle broke out between TMC and CPI (M) 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 opposition party, while poll officials said that no such incident has happened.
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 in Kalyani. A BJP worker was critically injured after bombs were lobbed at him allegedly by TMC activists while he was returning home after casting his vote in 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 opposition 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. A total of 1,13,47,344 people were eligible to vote. Of them, 57,35,766 were men, 56,11,354 were women and 224 were 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 in 15,789 stations across the six districts. The EC had deployed 853 companies of central forces in this phase.