From a BJP worker getting killed in Jhargram to party workers sustaining bullet injuries and candidates getting heckled — widespread violence again marred the sixth phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal on Sunday.
But despite the clashes, 79.93 per cent of the 1,33,56,964 voters exercised their franchise till 5 p.m. in the eight constituencies spread across five districts which went to the polls in the sixth phase, the Election Commission said.
Tamluk recorded the highest polling percentage at 82.99 per cent, followed by Bishnupur (81.90 per cent), Jhargram (81.68 per cent), Ghatal (80.35 per cent), Kanthi (80.06 per cent), Purulia (78.64 per cent), Midnapore (78.17 per cent) and Bankura (75.68 per cent).
There are 83 candidates in the fray in the penultimate phase of polling in the state which is voting in all the seven phases of the staggered Lok Sabha elections. For the BJP, which is aiming to make it big in the state, the sixth phase is perhaps the most crucial one as it includes four constituencies with sizeable tribal population, a section the party has been wooing.
Violence was reported from various parts of the state even before polling began and a middle-aged BJP activist was killed in Jhargram district in the tribal heartland of the state.
Ramen Singh (30) from Gopiballavpur sustained a grievous head injury after being hit with an iron rod. Singh was rushed to a hospital where he was declared dead, the police said. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later accused that miscreants backed by the Trinamool Congress were behind the crime.
In West Midnapore district’s Ghatal, BJP candidate and former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh was forced to take shelter inside a temple beside the Keshpur police station after being heckled and chased by Trinamool supporters, who accused her of instigating disturbance in the area. Ghosh was rescued by the security personnel after nearly two hours.
The mob led by Trinamool Congress supporters got infuriated after one of her security guards allegedly opened fire, injuring a Trinamool worker in the arm.
Locals alleged that Ghosh herself had directed her security guards to fire at the mob near a polling station after her convoy was stopped by a group of agitators.
“Voting was going on peacefully. But Ghosh came in a convoy of nearly 15 cars and tried to intimidate the voters. When the locals tried to stop her, she asked her security personnel to fire at them. One Trinamool supporter received bullet injury in his hand,” a local said.
Denying the allegations, Ghosh accused the state administration of deliberately stopping her convoy to heckle her and impede her from visiting the polling booths.
“If my security guard has opened fire, the police should lodge an FIR against him, check his gun and match the bullet that has been fired. But why are they stopping me? As a candidate, I am entitled to travel across the constituency and visit the polling stations. It is a conspiracy by the state administration as I am trying to stop the Trinamool from rigging,” Ghosh said, adding that she was not happy with the role played the Election Commission.
Ghosh was earlier stopped from entering a polling booth in Ghatal by a group of women, said to be Trinamool Congress workers, who accused her of influencing the voters.
Later, bricks were pelted on her convoy near Keshpur, injuring one of her security guards, as her car, along with some other vehicles belonging to the media, were vandalised.
Her security personnel claimed that they had to fire in the air in a bid to control the situation and to save their own lives.
Ghosh also alleged she was assaulted by the agitating Trinamool supporters.
Meanwhile, Deepak (Dev) Adhikari, the actor-turned-politician and the sitting Trinamool MP from Ghatal, visited the house of party worker injured in the firing and accused his rival Ghosh of trying to trigger unrest in the area.
“She (Ghosh) has been trying to cause unrest in the area by intimidating the locals for the last few days. But not a single Trinamool activist said anything to her. Today she did the same, but the villagers in Keshpur resisted. I do not want this. Polling should happen in a peaceful manner,” Adhikari said.
In East Midnapore’s Kanthi, shots were fired by unidentified assailants which injured two BJP activists — Ananta Guchit and Ranjit Maiti — who were rushed to a hospital in Kolkata. The saffron party has blamed the Trinamool-backed miscreants for the incident.
Incidents of violence and clashes were also reported from Midnapore, where BJP’s state unit chief Dilip Ghosh is engaged in a high-profile battle with Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha member Manas Bhunia.
At least four Trinamool workers had to be hospitalised after being attacked with sharp objects allegedly by the BJP supporters. The condition of one person was said to be critical, Bhunia said.
The Trinamool workers also staged a protest demonstration against Dilip Ghosh, who was denied entry into some polling booths in Rampura area where alleged proxy voting by Trinamool supporters was reported.
In other incidents, a Trinamool camp office in Belda in West Midnapore district was ransacked allegedly by BJP workers, leaving four Trinamool workers injured.
Meanwhile, a number of BJP supporters received injuries in Datan in East Midnapore following a clash with some Trinamool workers.
In Kanthi, the body of a Trinamool worker, Sudhakar Maity (40), having serious injury marks on the head was recovered hours before the voting started on Sunday.
While Trinamool leader and state Minister Suvendu Adhikari said that it was a case of an accident, the party’s local leaders accused BJP supporters of killing Maity.
“The body of Sudhakar Maity was found with injury marks on the back of his head. The cause of death would be ascertained after the post-mortem,” the police said.
A total of 770 companies of central forces have been deployed in the state’s tribal heartland, as well as for the seats in Junglemahal, once a hotbed of Maoist activities.
The remaining nine of the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state will vote in the seventh and final phase on May 19. The votes will be counted on May 23.