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Barring a few stray incidents of violence and allegations against the Central Forces for having failed to conduct their duties, polling was mostly peaceful in the Junglemahal belt, which comprises Bankura, East & West Midnapore, Jhargram and Purulia.
Despite incidents of violence, parts of Raipur, Chhatna, Ranibandh and Saltora Assembly Constituencies (AC) recorded a whopping over 80 per cent polling in the first phase today.
In Ranibandh, the average polling was 72.58 per cent. At three places the polling stations remained empty as voters boycotted alleging that their long-standing demands of roads and bridges were not addressed over the years. At Jamthol and Kendua village, within Chhatna AC, voters refrained from voting. At a booth in Hir Bandh in Ranibandh AC, no vote was cast. The booths had 650, 1100 and 750 voters respectively.
DM, Bankura, K Radhika Aiyar said: “The issues raised were taken care of. Road construction proposal has been approved.” She added: “Polling was peaceful across the district and no significant untoward incident was recorded till evening.”
The Chhatna AC Trinamul candidate, Subhashis Batabyal complained he was denied access to the booths 157 and 182 at Kantapahari and Bagjuri villages by central paramilitary forces. “Our polling agents were hounded out of the booth at Bagjuri. We have complained to the EC. In seven booth premises in four AC’s, central forces tried to influence the voters.” The DM, Aiyar said: “No specific complaint was received by DM office.”
At booth 37 at Kalikapur within the Saltora AC, a BJP polling agent Mohit Rout was allegedly thrashed by TMC supporters. Rout complained: “They beat up me in the presence of CRPF.” TMC’s district committee leader Moloy Mukherjee said: “Rout was resisted by the voters when he was trying to intimidate them.” An elderly TMC polling person allegedly was ‘driven out by the BJP cadres – Baidyanath Mondal and Anupan Mondal in Chhatna. The person suffered grievous injuries.
Meanwhile, Assembly polls in East and West Midnapore, and Jhargram went peacefully amidst tight security, today. An audio clip which allegedly contains a conversation between Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee and BJP’s East Midnapore district vice-president, Pralay Pal sparked-off controversy. In seats where the ruling Trinamul Congress is pitted in a neck-to-neck fight with BJP, a large number of voters exercised their franchise.
As per the Election Commission report, 82.42 per cent voter turnout reported in East Midnapore, 80.16 per cent in West Midnapore and 80.55 per cent in Jhargram till 6 pm today. The election observers expressed satisfaction over the voting process. Complaints of booth jamming, rigging and intimidation surfaced from Khejuri, Pataspur, Bhagwanpur in East Midnapore, Salboni, Garbeta, Midnapore in West Midnapore and Jhargram.
In the Salboni area of West Midnapore, CPI-M candidate Susanta Ghosh was attacked with stones while his vehicle was vandalized allegedly by TMC supporters who also attacked journalists on the spot and ransacked their vehicles. An EC official said that four persons were arrested in connection with the incident and a report has been sought from the district administration. In Kanthi(South) constituency, TMC voters protested outside the polling booth at Majna alleging that EVM was functioning in favour of the BJP.
“Whenever the button was pressed in favour of our candidate, it was automatically cast in favour of the BJP candidate,” a TMC voter alleged. Breakout of protests halted polling for about three and a half-hour. In Khejuri, there were complaints of bombing, booth jamming and intimidation.
At Chawkgopalpur in Pataspur, TMC alleged armed BJP workers were outside the booth to intimidate voters. Security forces later intervened. At Dadra village in Keshiary, CRPF jawans clashed with local residents who alleged that the jawans were influencing the voters to cast their votes in favour of BJP. Protestors staged a roadblock.