Kolkata: One Congress worker was killed in clashes outside a polling booth as crude bombs were hurled in a bid to intimidate voters amid EVM malfunctioning at some place for the third phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal on Tuesday.
Nearly 79 per cent voting was recorded in the five constituencies — Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad — till 5 p.m. The polling began at 7 a.m. and was scheduled to continue till 6 p.m. The happy morning scenario of enthusiastic men and women queuing up outside polling booths to vote changed during the course of the day as reports of armed clashes between workers of rival parties started trickling in.
According to voters standing outside booth number 188 in the Bhagwangola Assembly segment of Murshidadbad constituency, Trinamool Congress and Congress activists attacked each other with bamboo sticks and sickles. A Trinamool panchayat member and a few Congress workers were injured. One person, identified as Tiyarul Sheikh, succumbed to his injuries, a Ranitala police station officer said.
Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal Aariz Aftab told reporters that Sheikh was “attacked outside the booth” when he came out after casting his vote and that “investigations are on” based on the detailed report sent by the district electoral officer. However, former Union Minister and State Congress Committee’s former President Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury accused Trinamool supporters of resorting to violence across the constituency and “Sheikh died while resisting Trinamool’s goons”.
Refuting allegations, Murshidabad’ Trinamool nominee Abu Taher Khan held the Congress’ factional fight responsible behind the killing of the person, alleging their leaders were beaten up brutally. “There is no factional fight and Trinamool supporetrs killed him,” Congress’ Murshidabad candidate Abu Hena said.
Meanwhile, an EC official said till 5 p.m., the overall voting percentage was 78.97. Balurghat recorded 80.98, Malda North 76.43, Malda South 77.45, Jangipur 78.58 and Murshidabad 81.41 per cent polling. Crude bombs were hurled by bike-borne miscreants outside polling stations at Tiktikipara in Domkal, Murshidadbad, and Kaliachawk in Malda South. Both Domkal and Kaliachawk are known for their history of political violence. In Domkal, a Trinamool Congress councillor’s husband was also beaten up allegedly by Congress-backed goons.
In South Dinajpur district, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader sustained serious injuries when he was attacked with a sharp weapon, allegedly by Trinamool-backed goons at Tapan, while the BJP’s Balurghat candidate Sukanta Majumdar was threatened. In the Kusmandi area, Trinamool activists allegedly thrashed BJP supporters.
A former Trinamool lawmaker Mahmuda Begum was seen intimidating police personnel for heavy security deployment at a booth in Balurghat’s Kumarganj. Opposition parties — the Congress and the CPI-M — alleged that Trinamool supporters threatened their agents and voters in many booths in Murshidabad’s Bhagobangola and Jalangi areas.
Firings by miscreants, purportedly owing allegiance to the Trinamool Congress to threaten opposition agents, were also reported in Murshidabad’s Kumripur. Faulty Electronic Voting Machines stalled voting in a few polling stations in Malda North seat. Meanwhile, Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee accused the Central forces personnel of influencing electorate to vote for the BJP and said an “official complaint” has been lodged with the EC against offenders.
Addressing an election meeting at Arambagh, Hooghly district, Banerjee alleged the Central force personnel tried to influence voters after entering two polling booths in the Malda South constituency. A total of 80,23,846 people are eligible to vote in 8,528 polling stations to decide the fate of 61 candidates, six of whom are women.
Altogether, 324 companies of Central security forces have been deployed in the state, covering over 92 per cent of the polling stations across the five constituencies.
The deployment has been highest in the Murshidabad district (96 per cent) followed by Malda (91.4 per cent). The Balurghat seat outgoing Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh is caught in an intense vote battle with BJP’s Sukanta Majumdar and Ranen Barman of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), a constituent of the Left Front.
In Jangipur, former President Pranab Mukherjee’s son and Congress candidate Abhijit Mukherjee faces a multi-cornered contest as he seeks to score a hat-trick from the constituency, which sent his father to Parliament twice. The Trinamool has fielded Khalilur Rahaman, the CPI-M Zulfiqar Ali and the BJP Mafuja Khatun, the party’s only Muslim woman candidate in this election.
The tussle in Malda North is between cousins Isha Khan Choudhury of the Congress and incumbent MP Mausam Noor who won the 2014 elections on a Congress ticket but defected to the Trinamool this January. The BJP candidate for the seat is Khagen Murmu who crossed over from the CPI-M. The Left party has nominated Biswanath Ghosh.
In Malda South, Congress veteran and outgoing MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, Isha Khan Choudhury’s father, is up against Trinamool’s Mohammed Moazzem Hossain and BJP’s Sreerupa Mitra Choudhury. The CPI-M has not fielded a candidate here and is supporting Abu Hasem.
In 2014, the Congress bagged Malda North, Malda South and Jangipur constituencies, while the Trinamool won Balurghat and the CPI-M Murshidabad. The subsequent phases of voting will take place on April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.