Kolkata: Around 75.34 per cent of over 7 lakh electorate on Monday cast votes in the by-polls to three Assembly seats in West Bengal, amid allegations that TMC activists orchestrated an attack on the BJP candidate from Karimpur segment, Jay Prakash Majumdar.
Besides Karimpur, by-polls were also held in Kharagpur Sadar and Kaliaganj Assembly seats. "Till 5 PM, the polling percentage in 75.34. There were queues outside the polling booths even after 6 PM. So the percentage will definitely go up when we will be able to compile all the figures," an EC official said.
"The polls were more or less peaceful except an incident at Karimpur in Nadia district. We are looking into it," the official said. TV footages showed Majumdar, who is also the state BJP vice-president, being beaten up, kicked and pushed into a bush by miscreants at Phipulkhola area of Nadia district.
The EC official said a report on the incident has been sent to Chief Election Commissioner's office in New Delhi. Several TMC supporters raised "go back" slogans at another booth the BJP leader visited during the day. The police had to resort to baton charge to disperse the mob.
Holding TMC "goons" responsible for the act, Majumdar said, "Wounds would heal but the incident was a clear sign of the end of democracy" in West Bengal. Majumdar alleged that the TMC had planted fake voters in the area to rig the polls.
"But these will not demoralise me.... I have complained to the Election Commission," Majumdar said. Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy shot off a letter to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, seeking his intervention into the matter and accused the TMC of "turning the election into a farce in connivance with police and administration".
Union Minister Babul Supriyo also condemned the incident and sought an apology from the TMC. The BJP also demanded removal of the superintendent of police and the district magistrate of Nadia after its candidate was assaulted allegedly by TMC workers.
The BJP staged a road blockade in Girish Park area of central Kolkata to protest against the attack on Majumdar. The TMC, however, termed the allegations as baseless and said it has to be ascertained whether or not the assault on the candidate was real.
"The BJP very well knows that it is going to lose the polls. So they have staged a drama to gain sympathy. Those who don't have any connection with the people resort to falsehood and drama. The BJP is doing just that in West Bengal," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.
Nadia district leaders of the TMC claimed that locals had attacked Majumdar as they were angry with him for "vitiating" the poll atmosphere. The Congress and the CPI(M) that have come together after three years to contest the by-elections accused both the BJP and the TMC of vitiating the democratic atmosphere of the state.
"The TMC used the state police to terrorise the voters. The BJP used the central forces for doing the same. They are the two sides of the same coin," Senior Congress leader Suvankar Sarkar said. CPI(M) central committee leader Sujan Chakraborty criticised both the TMC and the BJP for allegedly turning the by-election into a farce.
The TMC has lodged a complained with the EC that BJP candidate of Kaliaganj, Kamal Chandra Sarkar, helped his wife cast her vote. The poll panel said the matter is being looked into.
Although the results to be declared on Thursday will have no bearing on the stability of the state government, the outcome will be a litmus test for the TMC and the BJP ahead of the 2021 state elections.
Kharagpur Sadar and Karimpur seats fell vacant after the general elections as the sitting MLAs contested and won Lok Sabha seats. In Kaliaganj, the by-poll was necessitated following the death of Congress MLA Parmathanath Roy. Congress nominee Dhitashree Roy, supported by the CPI (M), is pitted against TMC's Tapan Deb Sinha and BJP's Kamal Chandra Sarkar in Kaliaganj.
In Karimpur, vacated by TMC MLA Mahua Moitra after emerging victorious from Krishnnanagar Lok Sabha seat, the CPI(M)-Congress candidate Gholam Rabbi is contesting against BJP's Jay Prakash Majumdar and the ruling party's Bimalendu Singha Roy.
Prem Chandra Jha of the saffron party is taking on Chittaranjan Mandal of the Congress-CPI(M) alliance and Pradip Sarkar of the TMC in Kharagpur Sadar - vacated by BJP MLA Dilip Ghosh after winning Medinipur Lok Sabha seat.