Ankush Bandyopadhyay | Apr 18, 2019 | 5 min read
Again, violence and disruptions mark voting in West Bengal
Kolkata: Much like the violence-affected first phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, the second phase on Thursday too witnessed some incidents in three constituencies: Raiganj, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri.
However, the severity of violence was not as high as it was in the first phase, which saw TMC and BJP workers getting hospitalised in Cooch Behar.
The Special Police Observer for West Bengal Vivek Dube told the media that the polls went by largely peacefully in the state. He conceded that a few places such as Chopra in Raiganj witnessed some trouble, though.
In Senabana village of Purulia district, body of a 22-year-old BJP worker was found hanging from a tree. The deceased, identified as Sishupal Sahis, was a member of the BJP Yuva Morcha. "We met with special observer, Ajay Naik today. 80% of the booths had central forces and you have seen the violence. There are 5 more phases in West Bengal. BJP demands central forces in every booth for the polls. The Election Commission has assured us that more central forces are being brought into the state. You have also seen the Purulia incident. There’s jungle raj in Bengal and we need justice. Who killed the BJP worker? Proper investigation needs to be done," said Mukul Roy, BJP election committee convenor.
A BJP delegation also met Election Commission special observer Ajay Naik and raised the issue of free and fair polling after incidents in the state. The party also complained about the hate speech of TMC leader Ratna Ghosh Kar.
Although CPI(M) had won the seat in 2014, the Congress has won from here 13 times. The seat is closely contested between Deepa Dasmunsi (INC), sitting MP Mohammed Salim (CPI-M), Kanailal Agarwal (TMC) and Debasree Chaudhuri (BJP). This constituency registered voter turnout of 73.31 percent till 7 pm.
Violence and disruptions marked voting at polling booths in Raiganj. In Islampur, CPI(M) candidate Salim's car was attacked with bricks, breaking its window. The attack took place at the booth where Salim had challenged the TMC workers who were allegedly intimidating voters and poll officers. As soon as his car arrived, he was first stopped by some unidentified men and not allowed to get off.
CPI(M) has alleged that the TMC is behind the attack. Salim said it looks like West Bengal is all set to become a state of Mamata's arbitrary ruling. He said there's no democracy alive in the state. He claimed he himself found out how TMC men were threatening voters to vote for their party. He said they attacked him when he tried to intervene.
A booth in Girpar in the same constituency also witnessed violence. Here, voters blocked National Highway 34, claiming that unidentified miscreants did not allow them to vote, pushing the police to use batons.
There were reports of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) malfunctioning in a polling booth in Raiganj. Fault in the EVM delayed onset of voting in another booth in Uttar Dinajpur.
BJP candidate from Raiganj, Debasree Chaudhuri, alleged that TMC workers were trying to capture the booth at Raiganj Coronation High School. Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunsi expressed her displeasure with security arrangement and blamed the TMC for violence.
BJP Rajya Sabha member Roopa Ganguly, taking a dig at Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, exclaimed, "Did you see the visuals from Chopra today? There was bombing, stone pelting, lathi charge by the police. Absolute mess all around. I am failing to understand how is this even a democratic situation in West Bengal!"
The BJP and the TMC are likely to battle it out in this constituency. The BJP has fielded Raju Bista while the TMC has given a ticket to Amar Singh Rai, who is the sitting MLA from Darjeeling. The BJP has been winning the seat since 2009 and looks to retain it amid the anti-TMC and anti-Mamata sentiment among the Gorkha community. The Gorkhas are upset with the state government for the incident where a strike by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had the police opening firing and killing 11 locals. The seat witnessed a voter turnout of 72.7% till 7 pm.
Polling was halted at Upper Bagdogra's 25/47 booth under the Darjeeling constituency after a black tape was found on the BJP symbol on the EVM. Police had to resort to lathi charge after EVMs were smashed to pieces at booth no. 112 in Chopra. BJP Matigara youth president was admitted to Siliguri hospital after being beaten up by alleged Trinamool activists at Matigara booth no 286. Reports also said BJP and TMC workers clashed at Dighirpar and Kotgach booth in Chopra.
A 65-year-old woman was killed as she was run over by a train when she was returning after casting her vote in Siliguri (Darjeeling). The deceased has been identified as Meherunnisa.
Bijoy Chandra Barman will be contesting against the Congress’ Mani Kumar Darnal, CPI(M) Baghirath Chandra Roy and BJP’s Jayanta Kumar Roy in this constituency in north Bengal. Both the CPI(M) and the TMC will be competing for the tribal vote, an important demography in Jalpaiguri, making up about 15% of the population. The constituency received a voter turnout of 82.76% till 7 pm.
Though polling In Jalpaiguri was fairly peaceful, there were reports of disruption at a few booths due to faulty EVMs.
The local BJP leaders accused the TMC workers of setting fire to a booth in Jalpaigur’s Malbazar. Partho Pratim Ghosh, a journalist from ABP, was seriously injured during a clash in Jalpaiguri's Malbazar. He was taken to Siliguri hospital for treatment.
The state recorded a voter turnout of 76.43% till 7 pm. Voting for the remaining seats of the state will be held over all the five remaining phases of the general election.
(With inputs from A Ghose, SS Parveen and Roshan Gupta)
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