Sporadic incidents of violence were reported in Howrah, Hooghly and South 24-Parganas districts where voting is underway in the third phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections on Tuesday.
EC sources said, except stray of incidents of TMC-BJP-ISF clashes, the overall situation more or less remained peaceful with 76.07 per cent turnout recorded till 5 PM in 16 seats in South 24 Parganas district, seven seats in Howrah district and eight seats in Hooghly district.
Hooghly reported 77.29 per cent voting, 77.85 per cent reported in Howrah and in South 24 Parganas, 75.15 voting percentage was reported till 5 PM.
“Most of the cases were reported from Hooghly district. Presently the situation is under control and a large number of police forces deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident,” a senior EC official said.
The third phase of polling in West Bengal is witnessing a three-cornered contest between the TMC, ‘Sanjukta Morcha’ comprising Congress-Left Front-Indian Secular Front and the BJP.
There are 78,56,474 lakh eligible voters in the third phase to exercise their voting rights to decide the fate of 205 candidates including 192 men and 13 women.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister hits out at the Election Commission (EC) for its failure in ensuring free and fair elections in the third phase.
“The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party,” she tweeted.
Some of the key candidates in the third phase are BJP’s Swapan Dasgupta, TMC candidate Sujata Mondal Khan (estranged wife of BJP MP from Bishnupur Saumitra Khan), state TMC Minister Ashima Patra, CPI (M) leader Kanti Ganguy and BJP’s Papia Adhikari (Actress).
In the Arambagh seat (in Hooghly district), TMC candidate Sujata Mondal Khan alleged that she was attacked by BJP supporters.
Her security officer sustained severe head injuries and was admitted in a local hospital. Trouble started when Sujata went to Arambagh when the polling was going on. A large number of people mainly women armed with rod, bamboo sticks and sickle were seen chasing Sujata in a farm field in Dihi Bagnan area. Her car was also vandalised.
Hours later, she was once again attacked at Paisara village in Arambagh and somehow she managed to save herself.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien later lodged a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) claiming that she was attacked on head by the BJP workers.
Speaking to News18, Sujata Mondal Khan said, “BJP goons planned to kill me but somehow I saved my life. My security guard was attacked and he is under treatment. I would like to request all the women voters to see the actual face of BJP. They are dangerous for Bengal.”
Five people were arrested in connection with the attack on Sujata but interestingly out of five, two of them are TMC workers. It is still not known why the TMC workers were also involved in attacking Sujata in Arambagh.
In Uluberia South, BJP candidate Papia Adhikari was allegedly slapped by TMC cadres in front of policemen when she went to a local hospital to enquire about the health of an injured BJP worker who was attacked with a sword.
When contacted, a traumatised Papia said, “I went there to inquire about the health condition of my party workers and suddenly one TMC goon slapped me. I never imagined that this would happen in Bengal and too in front of the policemen. I have lodged a complaint with the EC and demanded stern action against the attackers.”
Meanwhile, Bengal BJP in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya called up Papia Adhikari and inquired about the incident. Two persons were arrested for assaulting Papia.
Similar incidents of violence and clashes were reported from Diamond Harbour (South 24-Parganas district), Haripal, Goghat, Dhaniakhali and in Khanakul in Hooghly district.
BJP candidate from Diamond Harbour seat, Dipak Haldar (South 24-Parganas district) accused TMC workers for not allowing voters to exercise their voting rights. In February, Dipak Haldar (who was the TMC MLA) joined the BJP.
He alleged that the central forces failed to control the TMC cadres who intimidated the voters and prevented them from going to their respective booths.
TMC candidate from Uluberia North Nirmal Majhi was seen entering the area wearing a helmet amid go back slogans by the BJP supporters. “I was heckled and my party workers were beaten up with rods. Shockingly, the central forces acted as a mute spectators,” Majhi said.
In Dhaniakhali seat, Minister of Technical Education Asima Patra accused the central forces of beating their party (TMC) workers. She also alleged that they (central forces) acted as BJP agents and helped the BJP workers in capturing the booths.
In Khanakul, TMC candidate Najmul Karim was roughed up by the BJP workers after he protested against BJP’s attempt to capture booths. He was later rescued by the central forces deployed in the area.
In a public rally in Cooch Behar, Mamata said, “In the third phase, despite atrocities of the central forces and BJP goons, I have information that we are leading in most of the seats (out of 31 seats where polling is underway in Howrah, Hooghly and South 24-Parganas districts). Sensing their defeat, now they are spreading misinformation that they are going to capture Bengal after May 2. But the fact is, they have already lost this battle.”
While accusing the EC for acting on behalf of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Mamata said, “Why EC is silent on attacks on our workers by the central forces and the BJP goons. So far (since the first phase of election), 7-8 people were killed and four among the victims were TMC workers. It is my humble request to the EC to act impartially or else people of Bengal will give them a befitting reply through their democratic rights.”
Early in the morning before the polling started, a BJP supporter Madhabi Adak was killed while saving her son from a section of ‘TMC workers’.
At Haripal, TMC-BJP clash was reported while in Goghat, TMC booth president Sunil Roy (60) was attacked allegedly by BJP workers. Sunil sustained injuries while saving his son who was assaulted by the BJP workers. A few hours later, Sunil complained of chest pain and he succumbed to injuries on his way to a local hospital.
At Tarakeswar, Arindam Chakraborty, an election agent of BJP candidate Swapan Dasgupta was attacked near booth no 53 in Dharampur.
In Hooghly district, an electronic voting machine (EVM) was found at the residence of a Trinamool Congress leader in West Bengal’s Uluberia following which the EC suspended the sector officer who had taken the machine to the politician’s residence and slept there overnight.
The EVM and VVPAT machines were taken to the house of the TMC leader by Tapan Sarkar, the deputed officer for Howrah’s Sector 17 in AC 177 Uluberia Uttar. However, the politician is reportedly a relative of the officer.
Sarkar has been suspended and the reserved EVM machine has been removed from the election process, the Election Commission said on Tuesday morning.
The EC also suspended Sub Inspector Sudip Chakraborty for his negligence. He was posted at the West Bengal CID.
“Most of the incidents of violence reported from Hooghly and Howrah districts. We will soon release the number of total arrests in the third phase,” EC sources said.