Phase-1 polling in West Bengal passes-off peacefully barring some stray incidents of violence

Phase-1 polling in West Bengal passes-off peacefully barring some stray incidents of violence

Nearly 80% turnout recorded, an audio-clip conversation between Mamata Banerjee and BJP leader goes viral

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Biswabrata Goswami

MIDNAPORE, 27 MARCH: Barring some stray incidents of violence, booth jamming, rigging and intimidation, the first phase assembly polls in East Midnapore, West Midnapore and Jhargram passed off peacefully amid tight security today.

As the election gathered tempo, where the ruling Trinamul Congress is facing a toughest battle with the resurgence of BJP, a large number of voters, ignoring the muggy weather and scorching sun, exercised their franchise.

As per the Election Commission report, 82.42 percent voter turnout reported in East Midnapore, 80.16 percent in West Midnapore and 80.55 percent in Jhargram till 6 pm today.

The election observers expressed satisfaction over the voting process. They, however, said that it was by-and-large peaceful, barring a few stray incidents of violence.

With the beginning of the elections, polling was peaceful at most of the booths across the assembly constituencies, but with the passing of time, complaints of booth jamming, rigging and intimidation especially from Khejuri, Pataspur, Bhagwanpur in East Midnapore, Salboni, Garbeta, Midnapore in West Midnapore and Jhargram started pouring in before the election commission.

In the Salboni area of West Midnapore, CPI-M candidate Susanta Gosh was badly heckled and stones were hurled at his vehicle allegedly by TMC supporters. They also beat him with shoes.

Some journalists who were reporting on the attack were also manhandled and their vehicles were damaged.

An EC official said that four persons were arrested in connection with the incident and a report has been sought from the district administration.

Long queues were seen outside most booths in the initial hours with people stepping out early to avoid the sweltering heat.

In Kanthi Dakshin constituency, a group of TMC voters raised protest outside the polling booth at Majna alleging that EVM was functioning in favour of BJP. “Whenever, we pressed the button in favour of our candidate, it was automatically casted in favour of the BJP candidate,” a TMC voter alleged.

To protest the incident, they gathered at the booth and polling was stopped for about three and half-an-hour until the problem was resolved.

At several places in Khejuri, there were complaints of bombing, booth jamming and intimidation against both TMC and BJP.

At Chawkgopalpur in Pataspur, TMC alleged that armed BJP workers were wandering outside the booth to intimidate the voters. Security forces later intervened and the intimidators fled the scene.

At Dadra village in Keshiary, CRPF jawans were involved in a clash with local residents who alleged that the jawans were influencing the voters to cast their rights in favour of BJP. They put up a roadblock to protest the incident, but the CRPF jawans resorted to a lathicharge to disperse them from the site.

This apart several stray incidents of violence were reported from Midnapore town, Bhagwanpur, Bhupatinagar, Nandigram and Jhargram.

Finally, an audio-clip of conversation between Trinamul supremo Mamata Banerjee and BJP’s East Midnapore district vice-president Pralay Pal where Mamata could be heard purportedly telling Pal, “You are a young and active worker… you work for us… there won’t be any problem…” went viral amid the polling.

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