Polling ‘largely peaceful’ in West Bengal

Sporadic incidents of violence in Chopra and Islampur, which fall under the Darjeeling and Raiganj Lok Sabha seats respectively, marred the second phase of polling in West Bengal.

According to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, 76.07% voters exercised their franchise with Jalpaiguri recording the highest polling at 82.76%. In both Raiganj and Darjeeling, 76.07% votes were polled till 5 p.m.

Election Commission officials said polling was “overall peaceful with stray incidents of violence”.

Ajay Naik, special general observer, and Vivek Dube, special police observer, told journalists that polling was largely peaceful. Asked about incidents of violence, Mr. Dube said some sporadic incidents were reported soon after polling started at Chopra and Islampur. “Small incidents will always occur, but voting has been peaceful,” Mr. Dube added.

Officials said scrutiny of reports from observers was on and no repolling had been ordered so far in any of the areas where violence was reported. Eight FIRs were registered during the course of the day and 33 people arrested.

The BJP State leadership, however, lodged complaints with the Election Commission in Kolkata. The CPI(M) and the Congress also lodged separate complaints.

In Islampur, the vehicle of CPI(M) candidate Mohd Salim was attacked. The MP blamed the Trinamool Congress for the attack. He said he was heckled when he visited a polling booth after receiving allegations of irregularities.

Violence was also reported in Goaltore block, where a journalist was attacked. In the first phase, similar incidents of violence were reported from Cooch Behar.

Trouble started at Chopra early in the morning with people demanding that central forces be deployed at the polling booths. Locals alleged that they were obstructed from casting their votes and blocked NH-31. A large contingent of police force reached the spot and tried to disperse the crowd but there was stone pelting. Police responded with baton charge and fired tear-gas shells. A video grab showed a police officer firing in the air.

BJP election convener in Raiganj Shahin Akhter told The Hindu that “booth number 180 was targeted and [voting was] disrupted”. “The booth was attacked and voters got together to protest. In another half a dozen booths, miscreants tried to disrupt the polling process. Central forces came after a few hours and polling was started later,” Mr. Akhter said.

TMC Minister Sadhan Pande said the TMC had “not interfered” in the poll process.

“The opposition parties are crying as no one voted for them. We are not objecting to any kind of scrutiny — neither by the Commission nor by the observers. Anyone can come and observe the polling process. We have not interfered… it is also not our principle to target journalists,” Mr. Pande said.


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