Amidst a massive surge in Covid cases, the seventh phase of elections recorded a voter turnout of 75.06 per cent while barring a few stray incidents, polls were “overall peaceful” in the 34 constituencies across five districts of West Bengal.

“Polls were overall peaceful and Covid protocols were completely enforced. There were 742 preventive arrests of which 11 arrests were in connection to violation of section 144. While 57 bombs were recovered though there were no incidents of bombing. A total of 1146 complaints were lodged in this phase,” said CEO Ariz Aftab at a press con ference today.

The highest voter turnout of 80.30 per cent was recorded in the 9 Assembly constituencies in Murshidabad while the four constituencies of south Kolkata recorded the lowest polling percentage of 59.91. The voter turnout in six districts of South Dinajpur was 80.21 per cent followed by Malda (78.76%) and West Burdwan (70.34%).

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who earlier held an emergency meeting on Covid management with state chief secretary and health secretary at Nabanna, showed victory symbol after she cast her vote at Mitra Institution in Bhawanipore (photo). BJP candidate from Asansol South Assembly constituency Agnimitra Paul complained that a Trinamul polling agent was wearing a cap with chief minister’s photo on it inside the booth at Baktarnagar High School despite the EC clearly stating that agents cannot wear anything with a party’s symbol or a leader’s picture on it.

“The presiding officer says that he’s unwell and did not see it. This is one of Mamata Banerjee’s tricks as she knows that people won’t vote for her. Her time is up. I will lodge a complaint regarding this,” she added. Later, she complained that ruling party activists were serving lunch to voters within 200 metres of the polling station. A few incidents of scuffle were reported from the Asansol area, where Trinamul candidate Sayoni Ghosh claimed that BJP activists tried to jam booths in her constituency though BJP candidate Paul dubbed the allegation as baseless.

Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from Raninagar in Murshidabad. Miss Banerjee said they would lodge an FIR against Central forces and move court in connection to an incident wherein Central forces allegedly ransacked the house of a local Trinamul leader. Earlier, an independent candidate alleged that he was beaten up by Central forces. Again, allegation of booth jam was levelled against Trinamul activists.

A TMC worker was assaulted at Farakka in Murshidabad allegedly by BJP and had to be hospitalised. Miss Banerjee also alleged that Trinamul camp office at Habibpur was captured by Central forces and they allegedly asked voters to vote in favour of the BJP. TMC activists alleged their camp office was ransacked by Central forces in Durgapur.

The four constituencies of Kolkata, which recorded a very low voter turnout, wore an almost deserted. Many non-Bengali voters of Deshapriya Park and Southern Avenue skipped polling on the plea that their priorities were ignored by the state government during Chhat Puja.

In the morning, the agent of BJP candidate from the Rashbehari Assembly constituency Lt Gen Subrata Saha was detained for allegedly molesting a few women voters inside a polling booth in New Alipore area, police said. Trinamul candidates Shovandeb Chattopadhyay from Bhawanipore and Debashis Kumar from Rashbehari alleged that they were not allowed to enter many booths by central forces.

In the Jamuria constituency, Left Front candidate Aishe Ghosh alleged that her party agents were stopped from entering the booth by Trinamul workers though the charge was denied by the ruling party. A voter died at Domkal in Murshidabad allegedly due to heat wave. In response to Madras High Court’s observation on Election Commission, Mr Aftab said that all steps were taken to implement Covid protocols.

“The commission has decided to increase the number of counting halls to 705,” he said.    Voting was held at 12,068 polling stations amidst the deployment of 796 companies of Central forces. The Election Commission has deployed 26 general and 9 expenditure observers and 6 police observers for this phase.