KOLKATA: Amid reports of alleged violence and booth capturing in Jangalmahal, over 81 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first part of the first phase Assembly poll in West Bengal on Monday. According to the Election Commission, however, the polls were without incident.
Voting took place in 18 constituencies spread over West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia which make up Jangalmahal. Polling in 13 Left Wing Extremism-affected constituencies ended early at 4 pm while in others it went on till 6 pm.
“We were in a state of anxiety. You know the reason (fears of Maoist violence). But overall there was no major incident or complaint. There was no news of any bandh or poll boycott by the Maoists,” Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta told reporters here.
Till the last available count, the voter turnout was over 81 per cent. There were reports of alleged violence as mediapersons were assaulted in the presence of central para military forces on Monday.
In several polling booths, local police constables were alleged to have entered and interfered with the polling process. Presiding officers were allegedly threatened and in some places, the EC after receiving complaints, removed some of them. Opposition parties raised questions about the role of the EC though it sought reports from the district magistrates of three districts where polling was held and there were reports of violence. The Election Commission had received 537 complaints during the polling process, of which 531 were disposed of.
Polling will be held in another 31 seats in the second part of the first phase to be held on April 11.
Central para military forces were allegedly seen taking rest or shopping in local markets in Jangalmahal which is affected by Maoist menace. In many booths, the forces were allegedly absent and ruling Trinamool Congress workers are said to have entered and cast ballots for several voters. In Salboni in Jhargram police district and Taldangra in Bankura, mediapersons were beaten up and their video cameras snatched and smashed.
BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha alleged that the EC was ineffective during the first phase of polling. Congress leader and nominee Abdul Mannana alleged: “This is a clear indication of a nexus between the BJP and the TMC as despite much thunder, the EC did not intervene and central para military forces remained mute spectators as polls were being rigged in front of them and the media assaulted.” The CPI(M) too alleged rigging in several places but its state secretary and LoP in state Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said, “This is the first innings and in Jangamahal the people will hit the chief minister over the boundary outside the region.”