Kolkata : Haldia, an industrial township near trouble-torn Nandigram in West Bengal, witnessed a peaceful but high-voltage municipal election Sunday which assumes significance for the ruling communists who were challenged by the combined strength of the opposition hoping to cash in on the Nandigram carnage.
The turnout was 81 percent when polling ended officially at 3 p.m. in this East Midnapore town, about 125 km from Kolkata, though voting continued in some booths where there were long queues, a West Bengal State Election Commission spokesman told IANS.
All eyes are now on the results – to be declared July 25.
There were some reports of minor clashes and allegations of booth jamming allegations despite heavy security arrangements.
A total of 55 candidates are vying for 26 municipal wards that have an electorate of 97,512. The polling was conducted in 111 booths under the supervision of about 550 personnel.
Haldia is a port town and growing industrial hub in West Bengal where the Left Front now wants to relocate the chemical hub that was planned in Nandigram, which triggered a chain of violence over land acquisition that claimed about 22 lives so far.
Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd, a modern naphtha-based petrochemical complex jointly promoted by West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, the Chatterjee Petrochem (Mauritius) Company Ltd and the Tata Group, is one of the showpiece industrial projects of the Left Front government.
After the March 14 police firing in Nandigram in East Midnapore district, which is across the Haldi river, the Haldia municipal election became significant with the opposition parties mounting a high-pitched campaign and forming a grand alliance to wrest the township from the communists.
Trinamool Congress, Congress, the Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind have formed an alliance to contest the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), with the Trinamool Congress fighting in 18 seats followed by the Congress in six.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front had secured all the seats in the last Haldia municipal election.
"We monitored each and every election booth in the Haldia municipal area where people cast their votes. The election procedure went off peacefully by and large and people cast their valuable votes according to their will," said Trinamool Congress East Midnapore president and MLA Sisir Adhikary.
He said: "After the Nandigram carnage people want change and that will be reflected in the Haldia municipal election definitely.
"We are trying hard so that people can choose their desired representatives through a fair voting system."
Two days ago, communist patriarch and former chief minister Jyoti Basu said the Left Front would secure victory in Haldia municipal election, but he too had expressed scepticism about a clean sweep by the Left like last time.
Only a few months back, the Left Front faced an unprecedented debacle in the Panskura civic poll, another East Midnapore constituency, following the Nandigram wave.
Haldia Development Authority (HAD) chairman and CPI-M MP and strongman Lakshman Seth said people of Haldia would surely vote for industrialisation despite all the political tussle and raging controversies over land acquisition.
"The civic election ended peacefully here. We are quite sure that the Left Front will win in all 26 seats of Haldia municipality," Seth said.