Amid violence, 18 percent turnout in Bengal polls

Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Amid reports of sporadic violence which killed one person, over 18 percent of polling was registered in the first two hours for the third phase of the West Bengal assembly elections involving 62 constituencies in four districts on Thursday.

Twenty-two constituencies in Murshidabad, 17 in Nadia and 16 in Burdwan districts and seven in north Kolkata are up for grabs. Thursday marks the second and final round of voting in Burdwan, where nine constituencies went to the hustings on April 11.

“Till 9.00 a.m., overall 18.29 percent polling was recorded. The turnout in Murshidabad was 20.53 percent, Nadia 18.09 percent, Burdwan 17.01 percent and Kolkata 14.71 percent,” said an Election Commission (EC) official.

The EC officials also received over 800 complaints, including those of violence, voter intimidation, and disruption to poll process, during the ballotting so far.

In Domkal of Murshidabad district, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activist Tahidul Islam was killed when crude bombs were hurled at him.

While the EC has sought a report over the attack, CPI-M leader Anisur Rahaman has accused the Trinamool Congress for the killing. The ruling party has denied the charge.

“Apprehensive of defeat, Trinamool has been indulging in terror tactics and Islam’s death is a result of that,” said Rahaman, contesting from Domkal.

However, Trinamool’s Domkal nominee Soumik Hossain denied the charge and claimed the death was a result of a clash between the CPI-M and the Congress.

Whistle-blower former Indian Police Service officer Nazrul Islam, who too is contesting from Domkal, accused the EC of being “intentionally incompetent”.

“Despite repeated pleas, no efforts were made to arrest criminals from the area nor were illegal weapons seized. It is not that the EC is incompetent or can’t do it. They intentionally did not do it,” said Islam.

“The EC has chosen to be intentionally incompetent, the reason being a tacit understanding between ruling parties at the Centre (BJP) and the state (Trinamool),” added Islam, who is contesting as a candidate of Mulnibasi Party, an outfit floated by him.

Reports of violence were also reported from Ketugram in Burdwan district where three people were injured after crude bombs were thrown near a polling booth.

Several crude bombs were recovered from near a booth in Saguna in Nadia district too.

Both the CPI-M and the Congress alleged their polling agents were assaulted and driven out in several booths. Booth-capturing and voter intimidation also took place in several areas.

Over 1.37 crore (1,37,42,000) voters are eligible to elect their legislators across 16,461 polling stations, including 10 auxiliary booths, from a field of 418 candidates — 34 of them female.

In the assembly polls in the 62 constituencies five years back, then allies Trinamool and Congress captured 45 seats, with the Trinamool taking 29 and the Congress 16.

Among the Left Front partners, the CPI-M had won 14, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party and All India Forward Bloc one each.

The ruling Trinamool and the BJP are contesting in all the seats in this phase.

The Left-Front Congress alliance is also in fray for all the seats. But the Congress nominees are also clashing with those from the Left Front in 11 seats — 10 in Murshidabad and one in Nadia.

In this phase, Ranaghat South in Nadia is the largest constituency electorate-wise, and Ausgram in Burdwan district the biggest in terms of area. Shyampukar constituency in Kolkata North has the least number of electors.

Among the major candidates in this phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, Subrata Saha, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Mohammad Sohrab and former state party president Somendranath Mitra, and Ritesh Tiwari from the BJP.

Of the 418 candidates in the fray, 61 are millionaires, 80 have criminal cases against them, with 65 of them declaring serious criminal offences like murder and rape against their name.

So far, voters in 105 of the total 294 constituencies have exercised their right to franchise on three dates — April 4, 11 and 17 — in the first two phases.

West Bengal is having a staggered six-phase election. Polling for the remaining phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5.

–IANS

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