Bengal civic polls: Violence fails to deter voters, 60 percent turnout

Kolkata: Over 60 percent of voters on Saturday turned up for polling for 91 civic bodies in West Bengal during which a man was shot dead while three others sustained bullet injuries.

A Trinamool Congress activist, identified as Indrajit Singh, was shot dead while two women voters sustained bullet injuries at Katwa in Burdwan. Another person was shot at in North 24 Parganas district.

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“He (Singh) was shot dead by unidentified people. We have sought a report on the incident,” Burdwan district magistrate Saumitra Mohan said. Trinamool leaders have pointed fingers at Congress activists over Singh’s death.

Claiming ignorance about Singh’s death, State Election Commissioner S.R. Upadhyay admitted receiving over 100 complaints of violence and electoral malpractices.

“We have received over 100 complaints including those for booth capturing, voter intimidation, assault on polling agents and incidents of firing from at least four different places,” Upadhyay told mediapersons.

He said most of the complaints were from North 24 Parganas district and he has sought reports from the officials concerned.

Even as he admitted that a polling official was injured and EVMs and webcams were destroyed in several booths, Upadhyay refused to comment if the polls were peaceful or not.

“Neither I would say it was not peaceful nor would I say it was disturbed. I will not make a comment if the poll was successful since my own views will come across,” said Upadhyay who has been widely slammed by the BJP, Left Front and the Congress for “being inept and spineless”.

Upadhyay said the panel was also verifying the demands for repoll made mostly by the opposition parties.

The BJP which had called for holding afresh the Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls has demanded repolling for all the 91 civic bodies.

Polling in several districts across north and south Bengal was temporarily suspended after tremors were felt following a devastating earthquake that hit Nepal, killing hundreds.

The tremors led to temporary suspension of polling in many booths in the districts of Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, Murshidabad and Howrah.

“While the tremors created panic among the voters for a brief period, several elderly voters had to be given medical attention after feeling uncomfortable and dizzy,” said a poll panel official, adding that 62 percent polling was recorded till last reports came in.

In North 24 Parganas’ Titagarh, a voter was allegedly shot in the leg while Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Govind Pal alleged that Trinamool cadres fired at him but he escaped unhurt.

There were also reports of crude bombs being hurled at several places across North 24 Parganas, Burdwan and Bankura districts resulting in injuries to several people. Several crude bombs were recovered by police in Sonamukhi town in Bankura district.

Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Darjeeling S.S. Ahluwalia alleged that several party candidates contesting the Siliguri Municipality polls, and activists were assaulted by Trinamool goons.

“Since midnight, our people have come under intense attack by Trinamool goons. Our candidates have been beaten up, party activists and polling agent been assaulted. There is a reign of terror unleashed by Trinamool,” said Ahluwalia.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose charged the ruling Trinamool with turning the polls into a “farce” yet again like the April 18 KMC polls.

“As expected, the Trinamool has turned this polls also into a farce. Across the districts there has been rampant violence, booths have been captured, false votes have been cast and the poll panel and the administration have remained a mute spectator,” said Bose.

State BJP chief Rahul Sinha too lambasted the poll panel and the Trinamool for “trampling democracy” in Bengal.

Trinamool secretary-general Partha Chatterjee rubbished the opposition’s charges and said the polls were peaceful.

There are 7,636 candidates contesting for 1,946 wards of the 91 municipal bodies — one Notified Area, two Municipal Corporations (Siliguri and Chandannagar) and 88 municipalities — spread across north and south Bengal.

The results will be declared on April 28.