Despite deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) at all polling stations in the state, there was no respite from violence in the fifth phase of polling too in West Bengal. The state reported attacks on two BJP candidates, Arjun Singh and Locket Chatterjee, and also on polling agents of opposition parties, even as more than 74 per cent turnout was recorded in seven constituencies that went to polls on Monday.
There were similar reports of violence during the previous phases too, and a voter even lost his life in the fourth phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
On Monday, there were also cases of intimidation, violence, bombings and EVM glitches. Polling ended across the seven states at 6 pm.
According to the Election Commission of India website, the overall turnout at West Bengal stood at 74.42 per cent at 8.15 pm.
Reports said Uluberia recorded the maximum turnout at 77.57 per cent, followed by Bongaon (76.18), Hooghly (76.14), Arambag (75.73), Sreerampur (73.31), Barrackpore (71.28) and Howrah (67.59). The Trinamool Congress, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had won all these seats in 2014.
Violence was first reported from Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas where former Railway Minister and sitting MP Dinesh Trivedi has been challenged by BJP’s Arjun Singh who joined the saffron party in March after being denied a Trinamool ticket. Singh, who used to be Trivedi’s “election manager”, was allegedly attacked by Trinamool supporters outside a polling booth in Aamdanga and sustained minor injuries on his face.
“The truth will be captured by the media and monitored by the Election Commission (EC). Moreover, Singh is a ‘Baahubali’, how can anyone attack him,” IANS quoted Trivedi as saying.
Later in the day, more drama unfolded in Amdanga’s Tetulia area after his party agent was allegedly not allowed to sit the within polling booths allegedly by Trinamool supporters, and he tried to enter a polling station. CPI-M agents were also allegedly not allowed to sit inside polling booths in the segment.
As TMC workers allegedly stopped Singh from entering the booth and manhandled him, the incident attracted media attention, and the TMC workers attacked the journalists who were clicking photographs of the unrest.
Some mediapersons sustained injuries and their vehicles were vandalised.
Singh also faced protest in Naihati where he had gone on hearing that outsiders were scaring away voters. He was allegedly chased away by Trinamool workers shouting “Go back, Arjun Singh”.
In Hooghly, actress-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee, a BJP candidate, accused the Trinamool of proxy voting in Dhanekhali area.
She said her car was vandalised, and that Central forces were not deployed properly.
“About 90 per cent of booths in Dhanekhali were captured and we are demanding a re-poll. I will not allow anyone to use their influence in voting. I am not at all happy with the deployment of Central forces as they are being misguided by the state police. It is not humanly possible to keep running to different booths wherever such problems arise,” said Chatterjee.
On the other hand, Trinamool members and polling officials accused her of creating disturbance and vandalising a voting machine at a Dhanekhali booth.
Alleging that BJP activists hurled bombs at them, TMC members staged protest in Hingli area in Bangaon, blocking an arterial road. They claimed two persons, including a police officer, were injured in the incident. Central forces were deployed to bring the situation under control.
In Serampore, BJP candidate Debjit Sarkar’s assistant was allegedly beaten up by TMC supporters.
In Bijpur under the Barrackpore constituency, voters were summoned back from their homes to cast their votes again as the presiding officer said the mock poll results had not been removed.
In Tarakeshwar under Arambag constituency, the presiding officer was reportedly removed after a Trinamool leader was seen influencing voters and entering the booth.
Clashes between TMC and BJP workers were reported from Howrah and Ulubaria too.
An electorate of over 1.16 crore, including 60.04 lakh men, 56.86 lakh women and 211 belonging to the third gender, decided the fate of 83 candidates on Monday.
As many as 578 companies of Central forces had been deployed to assist the police in smooth conduct of the polls.
According to the election schedule, West Bengal is voting in all seven phases, and the subsequent phases will take place on May 12 and May 19, when the remaining 17 seats will go to polls. Polling was completed in 18 out of the 42 constituencies in the first four phases. The votes will be counted on May 23.