Bengal vote 68 percent in third phase, one dead in violence

Kolkata, April 21 (IANS) Amid incidents of violence that left one person dead and several others injured, West Bengal saw over 67 percent votes cast in 62 constituencies during the first six hours on Thursday in the third phase of the assembly elections.

Election Commission officials have received over 1,500 complaints, including those of violence, voter intimidation and disruption of the poll process. At least 47 people were held in the metropolis itself.

The constituencies that went to polls on Thursday included 22 in Murshidabad, 17 in Nadia, 16 in Burdwan districts and seven in north Kolkata. Thursday’s balloting marked the second and final round of voting in Burdwan, where nine constituencies went to polls on April 11.

“Till 3 p.m., overall 67.55 percent polling was recorded. The turnout in Murshidabad was 70.32 percent, Nadia 68.62 percent, Burdwan 70.55 percent and Kolkata 49.43 percent,” an Election Commission official said.

Amid sweltering heat, incidents of violence were reported in Murshidabad, Nadia and Burdwan districts, leaving one dead and several others injured.

Tahidul Islam, a Communist Party of India-Marxist activist, was killed when crude bombs were hurled at him in Domkal in Murshidabad district.

While the Election Commission sought a report on the incident, CPI-M leader Anisur Rahaman blamed the Trinamool Congress for the killing, but the ruling party denied it.

Trinamool’s Domkal nominee Soumik Hossain claimed the death was a result of a clash between the CPI-M and the Congress supporters.

Besides, at least four others were attacked in Domkal allegedly for casting their votes.

“Last night, some people threatened me not to vote but I chose to ignore that. When I was returning after casting my vote, I was attacked,” said one of the injured who was admitted to a hospital.

Whistle-blower former Indian Police Service officer Nazrul Islam, who too is contesting from Domkal, accused the EC of being “intentionally incompetent”.

“The EC has chosen to be intentionally incompetent; the reason being a tacit understanding between the ruling parties at the Centre (BJP) and the state (Trinamool),” added Islam, a candidate of the Mulnibasi Party floated by him.

Congress state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury alleged that central security forces were “absent” in many places in Murshidabad and said complaints to the EC have been made about the “district administration’s biased role towards the Trinamool”.

Reports of violence were also received from Ketugram in Burdwan district where three people were injured after crude bombs were hurled near a polling booth.

Several crude bombs were also seized from near a booth at Saguna in Nadia district.

Voters in Chakdaha in Nadia district alleged they were “prevented from voting by Trinamool goons”.

At least four people were injured in Mangalkote of Burdwan with Trinamool’s Siddiqullah Chowdhury accusing the CPI-M for the attack.

Complaints of voter intimidation and scuffles between rival political activists were also received from several booths in Kolkata, including Beliaghta and Entally. A mediaperson was among the injured.

At least 47 people have been arrested from the city, said a Kolkata police officer.

Both the CPI-M and the Congress alleged their polling agents were assaulted and driven out in several booths. Booth-capturing and voter intimidation took place in a number of areas, they said.

Over 1.37 crore (1,37,42,000) voters are eligible to elect their legislators across 16,461 polling stations, including 10 auxiliary booths, from among 418 candidates, including 34 women.

Of the 62 constituencies that went to polls on Thursday, Trinamool and Congress had captured 29 and 16 seats respectively five years ago.

Among the Left Front partners, the CPI-M won 14, and Revolutionary Socialist Party, Samajwadi Party and All India Forward Bloc, one each.

The ruling Trinamool and the Bharatiya Janata Party are contesting all 62 constituencies in the third phase.

The Left Front-Congress alliance is in fray for all the 62 constituencies. But the Congress nominees are also clashing with those from the Left Front in 11 seats — 10 in Murshidabad and one in Nadia.

Among the major candidates in the third phase are state ministers and Trinamool contestants Rabiranjan Chattopadhyay, Sashi Panja, Sadhan Pandey, former state minister and CPI-M candidates Anisur Rahaman and Debesh Das, Congress legislature party leader Mohammad Sohrab and former state party president Somendranath Mitra, and BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

Of the 418 candidates in the fray, 61 are crorepatis, 80 have criminal cases against them, with 65 candidates declaring serious offences like murder and rape against their name.

So far, voters in 105 of the state’s total 294 assembly constituencies have exercised their right to franchise on April 4, 11 and 17 in the first two phases.

Polling in the fourth, fifth and sixth phases will be held on April 25, 30 and May 5 for 49, 53 and 25 constituencies respectively.

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