Siliguri/Islampur: Protests by voters, attack on a CPI(M) candidate and stray incidents of violence marred voting for Phase 2 of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal on Thursday.
In Islampur, stones were hurled at the car of CPI(M) member and Raiganj sitting MP Mohammad Salim allegedly by Trinamool Congress workers when he was on his way to a polling station. “Trinamool backed miscreants gathered within 100 meters of a polling station in Islampur's Patagara. They were trying to intimidate the voters. When I tried to go to there, they attacked my vehicle,” Salim said.
He also accused the state police of being silent spectators, saying they did not act against the Trinamool goons. “Trinamool has planned to capture booths and rig the votes where the central force personnel are not deployed. They are stopping legitimate voters,” he alleged.
Complaints of police inaction were also received from Chopra under the Darjeeling constituency, where voters blocked National Highway-31 demanding that CRPF personnel should be deployed in all polling stations to ensure their security.
The villagers complained of intimidation by ruling Trinamool Congress-backed goons and refused to cast their votes under the supervision of state police personnel accusing them of being partisan. As BJP and Trinamool activists clashed, the Rapid Action Force personnel lobbed tear gas shells to control the situation. The workers of the two parties also clashed inside the polling booth at Chopra's Kotgach, where an Electronic Voting Machine was smashed.
The BJP won the Darjeeling seat in 2009 and 2014. Tea garden workers were among those who turned out in strength in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri constituencies, while Muslim community members were seen in good numbers in Raiganj seat. In Jalpaiguri, there were reports of disruption in a few booths due to faulty EVMs.
The star constituency is Raiganj in North Dinajpur district, where Salim is taking on former Union minister and Congress nominee Deepa Dasmunsi, BJP state General Secretary Debasree Chaudhuri and Trinamool candidate Kanaia Lal Agarwal. Ten other candidates, including five Independents, are also in the fray.
In Darjeeling, BJP’s Raju Singh Bisht is against Trinamool’s Amar Singh Rai, Saman Pathak of CPI-M and Congress' Sankar Malakar. There are also seven candidates from other registered parties and five Independents.
Trinamool has re-nominated its sitting MP Bijoy Chandra Barman in Jalpaiguri, where the BJP ticket has gone to a medico Jayanta Kumar Ray, the Congress has fielded tea workers' leader Mani Kumar Darnal and the CPI-M Bhagirath Chandra Roy.
The subsequent phases of polls will be held on April 23, 29 and May 6, 12 and 19. Polling for the Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies took place in the first phase on April 11. The vote count is on May 23.