Kolkata: Sporadic incidents of violence and EVM malfunctioning allegations were reported from various parts of the 30 assemblies that went to polls during the first phase of West Bengal election, even as the overall poll situation remained largely peaceful with 79.79% turnout till 5 pm, an official said.
“The voting was largely peaceful with no major untoward incident. Till 5 pm, the voter turnout was 79.79%. Voting was still going on and the turnout is expected to cross 80%,” said a senior official of the Election Commission.
Of the 30 seats that went to polls, nine are in Purulia, four each in Bankura and Jhargram, six in Paschim Medinipur, and seven in high-stakes Purba Medinipur district.
Purba Medinipur recorded the highest turnout at 82.51%, followed by Jhargram (80.56%), Paschim Medinipur (80.12%), Bankura (79.90%) and Purulia (77.07%).
Violence and scuffles, however, marred the polling process in some areas.
At Salboni in Jhargram, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate was heckled allegedly by supporters of the ruling Trinamool Congress. Four people were arrested in connection with the matter and the poll panel has sought a report.
In the Kanthi Dakshin seat of Purba Medinipur district, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s brother Soumendu said his vehicle was attacked by miscreants at Sabajput area and his driver was thrashed allegedly by members of the TMC.
At Garbetta in West Midnapore, at least 12 BJP supporters were injured when they were attacked allegedly by TMC supporters.
“The pol panel has asked for detailed reports on violent incidents. At least 10 people have been arrested,” said the official.
Meanwhile, according to news agency PTI, agitators blocked a road outside a polling station at Majna, claiming that the VVPAT slip showed results in favour of a particular party, no matter which outfit they voted for.
A contingent of central forces was sent to the area to control the situation and the VVPAT machine was eventually replaced, an EC official told PTI.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, during a rally in Paschim Medinipur, claimed that the BJP has manipulated EVMs and used central forces to intimidate the voters.
“Today, in some polling booths of Kanthi, the VVPAT showed that votes were getting polled in favour of the BJP, even as a person pressed the button next to the symbol of some other party. In some areas, central forces were seen threatening voters. The EC must take action,” she said.
According to the EC, more than 100 EVMs malfunctioned in the state during the day, following which voting had to be stopped at some of the polling stations.
“People have voted for us. The BJP in some cases tried to incite the people, influence voters and create problems. There were some reports of EVM malfunction. We alerted the ECI,” said Kunal Ghosh, TMC spokesperson.
The TMC has also alleged that the police personnel deployed at the polling stations were mute spectators and central forces were not active when BJP leaders stormed into polling stations and TMC polling agents were forced to leave.
The BJP, however, dismissed the allegations. “TMC is still the ruling party but the allegations they have raised today against the BJP are such that it appears that the BJP is in power. They have damaged our cars. It is a sign of frustration. The TMC is showing signs of defeat,” said Jay Prakash Majumdar, BJP’s state vice president.
Earlier in the day, delegations of both the TMC and the BJP went to meet state’s chief electoral officer, Aariz Aftab.
“The ECI should ensure from the second phase that only voters of a particular area are allowed to become polling agents. At present the poll panel has allowed anyone voter of that constituency to become a polling agent. This would create confusion and locals may not identify him,” said TMC MP Sudip Banerjee.