Sporadic incidents mar first phase of polling in Bengal

Both the TMC and the BJP lodged 80 and 39 complaints, respectively, related to poll violence, voter intimidation, and assaults on poll agents in the first few hours of polling.
A TMC election office was torched allegedly by BJP members. (L)

TMC block president from Dinhata - I B, Anant Barman hospitalized after allegedly being beaten up by BJP members. (R)
A TMC election office was torched allegedly by BJP members. (L) TMC block president from Dinhata - I B, Anant Barman hospitalized after allegedly being beaten up by BJP members. (R) (Photo| X)

KOLKATA: Sporadic incidents of violence marred the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in the three parliamentary constituencies in Bengal, as TMC and the BJP workers clashed with each other in various parts of violence-prone Cooch Behar seat.

Both the TMC and the BJP lodged 80 and 39 complaints, respectively, related to poll violence, voter intimidation, and assaults on poll agents in the first few hours of polling, sources from both parties said.

Most of the complaints were from Cooch Behar and Alipurduars constituencies.

"We have received a few complaints, but we have no reports of violence so far," a senior officer of the CEO office said.

According to officials, Cooch Behar recorded 33. 68 per cent, while Alipurduars and Jalpaiguri recorded 35. 20 and 31. 94 per cent polling, respectively, by 11 am.

"By 11 am, the average polling was around 33. 56 per cent," an official said.

All three seats are reserved, with Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri for SCs and Alipurduars for STs.

A total of 37 candidates, including Union Minister and BJP leader Nisith Pramanik (Cooch Behar), are in the fray in the three constituencies.

The TMC alleged that BJP workers had thrashed polling agents in Sitalkuchi area of Cooch Behar constituency and voters were stopped from entering few booths.

The saffron camp denied the allegations and accused the TMC of intimidating voters.

Sitalkuchi, one of the most violence-prone areas of the state, witnessed widespread violence during the last assembly polls, leading to the death of four people in firing by central forces.

Television footage showed that in Mathabhanga area of the district, TMC and BJP workers clashed, resulting in injuries on both sides.

Workers from both parties confronted each other following allegations of voter intimidation.

In another area of Mathabhanga, TMC workers staged a protest following allegations that central forces were assisting BJP workers in rigging votes at some booths in the area.

The TMC block president from Bethguri, Anant Barman, was hospitalised after allegedly being beaten up by BJP members.

"The BJP, along with central forces, has unleashed a reign of terror to rig the elections. Our workers are being harassed and beaten," North Bengal Development Minister Udayan Guha said.

The district BJP unit denied the allegations and claimed that in many areas, they have been at the receiving end of violence.

"The TMC, sensing defeat, is trying to intimidate voters. BJP workers have been assaulted in various areas. Wherever Udayan Guha goes, he provokes people to indulge in violence. In many places, even media persons have been assaulted," Pramanik told reporters.

The BJP said that in the Cooch Behar South area, party members were kidnapped by TMC members, and polling agents were prevented from entering booths.

In Mathabhanga area, five BJP workers were injured and hospitalised after being attacked by TMC members, a district BJP leader said.

In the same area, the saffron camp also alleged that TMC workers visited households to intimidate voters.

In the Chandmari area, BJP workers alleged that voters were not allowed to enter booths, and TMC members had taken control of polling stations to rig the elections.

In the neighbouring Alipurduras constituency, the TMC alleged that CRPF personnel and BJP leaders were threatening and harassing voters, forcing them to vote for the saffron camp.

The BJP denied the allegations.

In a post on social media in Bengali, Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged voters to vote to prevent infiltration and corruption.

"Voting for the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections is ongoing in West Bengal today. I appeal to the people to vote for a government that will ensure poverty alleviation schemes at the grassroots level, prevent infiltration and corruption, and provide justice and security for women," he posted on X.

Reacting to his post, TMC leader Kunal Ghosh said it is the job of the Union Home Minister's office and the BSF to stop infiltration.

"People of Bengal are voting for @AITCofficial because 1) Projects of @MamataOfficial are the best in poverty alleviation. The Center is not paying the dues.

2) It is the job of Amit Shah's office and BSF to prevent infiltration.

3) When it comes to corruption, BJP is the best.

4) TMC respects women, unlike BJP-ruled states where incidents such as Unnao, Hathras, and Prayagraj have occurred," he posted.

Voting began at 7 am and will continue until 6 pm.

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