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Stray violence mars Ph 3 polling in WB

Overall turnout 77.68 per cent till 5 p.m; Candidates attacked; TMC accuses Central Forces, BJP of high-handedness, voter intimidation

Statesman News Service | Kolkata, Hooghly, Howrah, South 24 Parganas |

Stray incidents of violence, attacks on candidates, clashes and allegations of rigging and voter intimidation against both the BJP and the Trinamul Congress marked the third phase of polls in the 31 seats across parts of Howrah, Hooghly and South 24 Parganas that witnessed a voter turnout of 77.68 per cent till 5 p.m.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee once again raised allegations against the CRPF, accusing the Central forces of openly intimidating TMC voters and influencing many to vote in favor of the BJP.

“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,” she tweeted along with a video of locals allegedly complaining of rigging.

Highest voting has been recorded in Hooghly at 79.36 per cent followed by Howrah 77.93 per cent and South 24 Parganas 76.68 per cent. Even before polling started, a sector officer was suspended for reportedly spending the night with three EVMs and two VVPATs at the home of his relative, who is a Trinamul leader.

The sector officer Tapan Sarkar, who was in-charge of Sector 17 in Uluberia seat, spent a night at a relative’s place who turned out to be a local leader of the TMC.

“This is a gross violation of Election Commission’s instructions for which the Sector Officer has been suspended and charges will be framed for major punishment,” the EC said in a statement.

General Observer Neeraj Pawan has checked all seals of the EVM, which has now been stored in a separate room under the observer’s custody. Later, six others including two additional officers~ Sanjib Majumdar and Mithun Chakraborty, three home guards ~ SK Mani, Sarnendu Sasmal and Sudip Sarkar and one police sector officer~ Sujit Chakraborty were suspended in connection to the incident.

Incidents of candidates facing protests or being attacked by opponent party supporters were witnessed throughout the day. High drama unfolded in Arambagh hours after a clash broke out between the BJP and TMC workers over allegations of poll rigging.

BJP MP Soumitra Khan’s estranged wife and TMC candidate Sujata Khan Mondal was allegedly assaulted by BJP supporters and hit by a bamboo stick on her head from behind at Arandi village, a charge denied by the saffron party.

The TMC claimed BJP “goons” didn’t allow the party’s polling agents inside the polling stations while the BJP accused her of entering the area with TMC “goons” and creating unrest by threatening people against going to the polling stations to cast their votes. Next, BJP candidate of Uluberia South Papiya Adhikari,was allegedly assaulted when she went to see a party worker, who was admitted at Uluberia Sub-divisional Hospital and her security guards were attacked. She claimed that miscreants gheraoed and slapped her on her neck.

TMC candidate Dr Nirmal Maji claimed that he was “heckled” by BJP supporters and his vehicle vandalised when he tried visiting a booth in Uluberia North constituency. He was made to wear a helmet and escorted out of the troubled area by the police.

In Khanakul, TMC candidate Najmul Karim was allegedly beaten up by the BJP activists and slogans were raised against him. Later, Central forces rescued him from the area.

Similar protests were witnessed by BJP candidates Swapan Dasgupta and Tanusree Chakraborty. In Falta seat, a BJP candidate’s vehicle was attacked.

“A total of 11 people have been arrested in connection with three separate incidents of attacks of candidates. Five persons were arrested over alleged assault on TMC candidate in Arambagh, four arrested over alleged attack on TMC candidate in Khanakul and two over alleged attack on BJP candidate in Uluberia South. Overall polling was peaceful today,” said CEO Ariz Aftab. In Raidighi, senior CPI-M leader and Raidighi candidate and former CPI-M minister Kanti Ganguly said: “Violence and disturbance started last night in Raidighi. Voters are not allowed to cast their vote.”

At least one person was injured when crude bombs were lobbed outside a polling station in Canning East seat. TMC candidate Shaukat Mollah accused Abbas Siddiqui-led ISF for the attack, a charge denied by the party. 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.

In the Dhanekhali seat, state minister Asima Patra accused the Central forces of high-handedness and alleged that voters were being stopped by BJP “goons” from going to polling stations, an allegation dismissed by the saffron party.