One dead as violence mars third phase of Bengal polls

Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Amid escalating violence that left one person dead and several others injured and the sweltering heat, nearly 40 percent turnout was recorded in the first four hours for the third phase of the West Bengal assembly elections involving 62 constituencies 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 11.00 a.m., overall 39.76 percent polling was recorded. The turnout in Murshidabad was 42.99 percent, Nadia 40.78 percent, Burdwan 37.33 percent, and Kolkata 32.71 percent,” said an Election Commission (EC) official.

The EC officials also received over 1,000 complaints, including those of violence, voter intimidation, and disruption to poll process, during the ballotting so far.

Incidents of violence in Murshidabad, Nadia and Burdwan districts left one dead and several others injured.

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

While the EC has sought a report over the incident, CPI-M leader Anisur Rahaman blamed the Trinamool Congress for the killing, but the ruling party denied the charges.

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

Besides the killing of Islam, at least four others were attacked in Domkal allegedly for casting their votes.

“Last night, some people threatened me not to vote but I chose to ignore that. When I was returning after casting my vote, I was attacked,” alleged one of the injured undergoing treatment at a hospital.

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

“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 a candidate of the Mulnibasi Party floated by him.

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

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

Voters in Chakdaha in Nadia district alleged they were “prevented from voting by Trinamool goons”.

In the city’s Beliaghata, complaints of voter intimidation were received. Police had to intervene and detained several people.

Both the CPI-M and the Congress alleged their polling agents were assaulted and driven out in several booths. Booth-capturing and voter intimidation took place in a number of areas, they said.

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 62 constituencies in this phase.

The Left Front-Congress alliance is also in the fray for all the 62 constituencies. 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 voters.

Among the major candidates in this phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Md. Sohrab and former state party president Somendranath Mitra, and BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

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

So far, voters in 105 of the state’s 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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