Kolkata: Sporadic violence was reported in the fifth phase of polling for 45 seats in the West Bengal elections on Saturday . Clashes were reported in Salt Lake near Kolkata and at Shantinagar and Duttabad between Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters.
Till 5 p.m, there was 78.36% voter turnout even as polling was still underway, according to the Election Commission. In North Bengal, voting was by and large peaceful. In the fifth phase, 45 Assembly segments spanning over six districts went to the polls.
In Gayeshpur and Shantipur in Nadia districts, bombing reportedly took place between two warring groups. In Shason, the polling agent of the Sangjukta Morcha candidate was allegedly kidnapped and was untraceable till 2.p.m.
According to PTI, villagers alleged that central forces opened fire to disperse a mob near a polling booth in Kurulgacha area of Deganga constituency in North 24 Parganas district. The central forces, however, denied the allegations.
"Everything is fine here. Polling is undergoing very peacefully. There was no incident of firing anywhere in Deganga," a central force officer said.
However, the CEO office, following allegations and media reports, sought a report from the observer, an official said.
fifth phase of polling for 45 seats in the West Bengal
"We have received video footage from the media regarding central forces opening fire while dispersing a group of villagers who had gathered near a booth in Deganga's Kurulgacha. We have sought a report from the observer," the official told PTI.
Later, after meeting the Chief Election Officer, CPI(M) leader Rabin Deb, on behalf of Sangjukta Morcha, told reporters that in spite of repeated reminders to the EC and the CEO office, they were unable to stop surrogate poll campaigns on TV channels being beamed live on polling day.
He said the Prime Minister, Homer Minister and the Chief Minister have been conducting meetings that are being telecast live and even flouting COVID protocols.
Deb said these types of campaigns had been censured by the EC in 2007 and those orders still remain, yet the CEO’s office asked the Sanjugta Morcha to contact the EC office in New Delhi on this matter.
Elections to 114 Assembly segments are yet to be held in the next three phases and whether in those three phases, too, such surrogate campaign continues, remains to be seen.
COVID Shadow on Campaign
The CEO’s office in West Bengal called an all-party meeting in Kolkata recently and heard out political parties on the issue. On Friday evening, the EC came out with the decision to curtail the campaign period before the election and increase the silent period to 72 hours for the next three phases. It also announced that from 7 p.m to 10 a.m, no campaign can take place owing to the surge in COVID cases.
Interestingly, however, the PM’s and Home Minister’s public meetings are scheduled between 7 p.m to 10 a.m.
It may be recalled, that two Sangjukta Morcha candidates -- Rejaur Karim of Congress and Pradip Nandi of Revolutionary Socialist Party -- recently succumbed to COVID-19 in Murshidabad district. Today, incumbent MLA of Murarai also died from COVID-19 complication.
The Left-Congress-Indian Secular Front’s Sangjukta Morcha is the only political formation that has openly taken a stance to stay away from big rallies and meetings. In contrast, BJP leaders, after meeting the CEO on Saturday, said the party would go ahead with the PM’s and HM’s meetings in the state. It may be recalled that masks and physical distance protocols are not being followed in huge election rallies being held in West Bengal.