Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) Amid reports of violence, hurling of crude bombs, intimidation and EVM failure, nearly 52 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise in the first six hours of polling in phase three of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal on Tuesday.
Long queues of men and women of various age groups were seen outside polling booths in Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad constituencies.
Till 1 p.m., the overall voting percentage was 51.90. Balurghat recorded 56.16, Malda North 49.77, Malda South 50.44, Jangipur 52.82 and Murshidabad 50.32 per cent polling, an Election Commission (EC) official said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee accused the central force personnel of influencing the electorate to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and said an “official complaint” has been lodged with the EC against the offenders.
Addressing an election meeting at Arambagh, Hooghly district, Banerjee alleged that the central force personnel tried to influence voters after entering two polling booths under the Malda South constituency.
Crude bombs were hurled by unidentified 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 allegedly beaten up by Congress-backed goons.
In South Dinajpur district, a BJP leader sustained serious injuries when he was attacked with a sharp weapon allegedly by Trinamool backed goons at Tapan, while the saffron outfit’s Balurghat candidate Sukanta Majumdar was threatened. In 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.
Aerial firing by miscreants purportedly owing allegiance to the Trinamool to threaten Opposition agents was also reported in Murshidabad’s Kumripur.
Faulty Electronic Voting Machines stalled voting in a few polling stations in Malda North seat.
A total of 80,23,846 people will vote in 8,528 polling stations to decide the fate of 61 candidates, six of whom are women.
A total of 324 companies of Central Force personnel 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 Murshidabad district (96 per cent) followed by Malda (91.4 per cent).
The Balurghat seat is witnessing an intense battle between outgoing Trinamool MP Arpita Ghosh, 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 Abhijit Mukherjee of the Congress faces a tough battle as he seeks a hat-trick of wins from the constituency, which sent his father to Parliament twice.
In the multi-cornered battle for the seat, the TMC has fielded Khalilur Rahaman against the CPI-M’s Zulfiqar Ali and the BJP’s 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 on a Congress ticket in 2014 but defected to the Trinamool in January.
The BJP candidate from Malda North is another turncoat, Khagen Murmu, who crossed over from the CPI-M. The 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 Md 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 got Murshidabad.
The subsequent phases of the polls will be held on April 29, May 6, May 12 and May 19. Votes will be counted on May 23.