An attack on a CPI-M candidate and the destruction of an EVM were among several incidents of poll violence reported from the three constituencies in West Bengal were polling was held in the second phase of the Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.
The vehicle of Mohammad Salim, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP from Raiganj, was damaged at Islampur. Salim accused Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers of the attack. He also alleged that the police were “mute spectators”.
Till 3 pm, Raiganj recorded 61.84 per cent of polling.
Salim is facing Congress’ Deepa Dasmunsi, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha from 2009 to 2014. Others in the fray include BJP state General Secretary Debasree Chaudhuri and TMC candidate Kanaia Lal Agarwal.
On the other hand, Chopra in Darjeeling constituency, a BJP seat, witnessed a stand-off between supporters of TMC and BJP.
Some voters had blocked the national highway demanding more CRPF personnel at all polling stations for security. They alleged that TMC workers were preventing them from casting their votes.
Stones and crude bombs were hurled by TMC supporters and BJP supporters at each other.
Security force personnel reportedly fired tear gas shells and were forced to use batons to disperse the mob from the national highway.
Reports say that electronic voting machines were smashed following a clash between the supporters of the TMC and the BJP in booth number 112 in Chopra.
Special Police observer for West Bengal, Vivek Dube, described the polling as “more or less” peaceful notwithstanding “small incidents”.
Ajay V Nayak, the special observer appointed by the Election Commission, said, “So far the elections have been fair and peaceful.”
Asked about Chopra’s situation where voters were afraid to go to the booth, Nayak, a retired IAS officer of the 1984-batch, said, “In the reports of police observer, it was very clear that some people were scared of violence and were unable to cast their votes. He volunteered to escort them to the polling booth under police protection”.
Nayak called the incident a “law and order issue” adding that “district administration and officers concerned took appropriate action”.
An Election Commission official said in Kolkata said that Darjeeling had witnessed 63.14 per cent turnout till 3 pm.
In Darjeeling, BJP’s Raju Singh Bisht is taking on Trinamool’s Amar Singh Rai, Saman Pathak of the CPI-M and Congress’ Sankar Malakar among others.
Both the Congress and the BJP have alleged rampant violence in places were central forces were not deployed.
Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya lodged a complaint before the Commission stating that sensitive areas were guarded by state police personnel.
“Unfortunately, several incidents of violence have been reported in three constituencies. Central forces were deployed mostly in urban areas while state police personnel were deployed in many sensitive areas,” he told reporters at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer.
State BJP President Dilip Ghosh also accused the Commission of “not taking requisite security measures in advance”.
BJP MP from Asansol Babul Supriyo accused the Mamata Banerjee-led party of violence in parts of the state calling her a “murderer of democracy”.
“TMC resorted to violence during polls at Raigunj by threatening and beating up people who went out to vote.Voters had to be escorted to the booths by the armed forces present there. Let’s put an end to #TMChhi’s atrocities and attacks against democracy by stripping them of power (sic),” Babul Supriyo tweeted.
“The the Murderer of Democracy sitting as the CM of Bengal, no matter how much of Central Forces @ECISVEEP (Election Commission) deploys, contaminated Bengal Police will disrupt Free&Fair Polls•Vote shud be conducted after imposing Presidents Rule, throwing out the #TMchhi Govt,” he also wrote on Twitter.
TMC resorted to violence during polls at Raigunj by threatening and beating up people who went out to vote.Voters had to be escorted to the booths by the armed forces present there. Let’s put an end to #TMChhi‘s atrocities and attacks against democracy by stripping them of power.
— Chowkidar Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) April 18, 2019
The the Murderer of Democracy sitting as the CM of Bengal, no matter how much of Central Forces @ECISVEEP (Election Commission) deploys, contaminated Bengal Police will disrupt Free&Fair Polls•Vote shud be conducted after imposing Presidents Rule, throwing out the #TMchhi Govt
— Chowkidar Babul Supriyo (@SuPriyoBabul) April 18, 2019
Besides Raigunj and Darjeeling, polling was held in Jalpaiguri which recorded 71.32 per cent turnout.
Polling process was disrupted in a few booths in Jalpaiguri due to faulty EVMs.
TMC’s sitting MP Bijoy Chandra Barman is up against BJP’s Jayanta Kumar Ray, Mani Kumar Darnal of Congress and Bhagirath Chandra Roy CPI-M in Jalpaiguri.
Voting across 5,390 polling stations began at 7 am and will end at 6 pm in the three constituencies.
West Bengal is one of the three states where polling is being held in seven phases.
For the first time ever, a massive contingent of 41,000 paramilitary personnel will be deployed in the last six phases of Lok Sabha polls.
In today’s polls, a total of 194 companies (of 100 personnel each) are being deployed. In the first phases, about 84 companies were deployed to conduct polls in two seats of Coochbehar and Alipurduar.
A total of 49,32,346 eligible voters – 25,22,887 men, 24,09,372 women and 87 ‘other’ category – will vote for 42 candidates in this phase.
The subsequent phases of polling will be held on April 23, 29 and May 6, 12 and 19. Polling for the Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies took place in the first phase on April 11. The vote count is on May 23.