West Bengal third phase election marred by violence, attacks on candidates and allegations of voter intimidation

Published : April 06, 2021 22:26 IST

At a polling station in South 24 Parganas when voting was under way in the third phase of the eight-phase Assembly election in West Bengal. Photo: PTI

Violence and controversy amid high voter turnout marked the third phase of the eight-phase Assembly election in West Bengal. On April 6, people in 31 constituencies in the districts of Howrah (7 seats), Hooghly (8), and South 24 Parganas (16) voted, and the percentage at 5 p.m. was 77.68 per cent. Both BJP and Trinamool candidates found themselves as the target of attacks and there was widespread allegation by voters of intimidation by various political parties. A total of 1,802 complaints were lodged with the Election Commission.

Violence began from the night before polling began. At Goghat in Hooghly district, the mother of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker was beaten to death, allegedly by members of the ruling Trinamool Congress, when she tried to protect her son from being attacked. On the day of the polling itself, there was widespread violence, with the Trinamool, the BJP and the Sanyukta Morcha (the alliance between the Left, the Congress and the Indian Secular Front) pointing fingers at one another.

Candidates found themselves at the receiving end of violence perpetrated by political goons. In Arambagh, Trinamool candidate Sujata Mandal was seen fleeing a crowd of stick-wielding villagers, and in Uluberia Dakshin, another woman candidate, Papiya Adhikari of the BJP, was assaulted allegedly by Trinamool supporters. Among the other incidents of violence on candidates, in Khanakul in Hooghly, Trinamool candidate Najibul Karim was thrashed allegedly by BJP activists. There have also been a large number of complaints by voters of being forcibly prevented from casting their votes by goons at the behest of political parties.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee repeated her allegation that the Central forces were being used by the BJP to influence the election. In a social media message Mamata wrote: “The blatant misuse of Central forces continues unabated. Despite us repeatedly raising this issue, @ECISVEEP continues to be a mute spectator while men in uniform are being misused at several places to openly intimidate TMC voters & influence many to vote in favour of one party.”

In another incident, three electronic voting machines (EVMs) and four VVPATs were recovered from the house of a Trinamool leader in the Uluberia Uttar constituency. The Sector Officer, Tapan Kumar Sarkar, who had taken the machines to the house of the Trinamool leader who happened to be his relative was suspended.

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