Over two-thirds vote in Bengal, Left claims booth capturing
Amid allegations of booth capturing and demands for repolling by the opposition, around 70 percent of the electorate Wednesday cast ballot in nine Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal.
Joint chief electoral officer (CEO) Saibal Barman said around 70 percent polling was recorded till 3 p.m. in the constituencies spread over four districts - Howrah, Hooghly, Birbhum and Burdwan.
A by-poll is also being held for the Galsi assembly seat in Burdwan district.
Over 1.39 crore voters are eligible to cast their ballot at 17,332 polling stations. As many as 87 candidates are in the fray for the Lok Sabha seats, and four in the Galsi assembly constituency.
The Trinamool Congress, Left Front-spearhead Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are contesting all the parliamentary seats up for grabbing in Wednesday's polls.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose accused the Trinamool of "rampant booth capturing" and demanded repoll. He dubbed the Election Commission as "inactive".
"We had appraised the commission about how voters are being intimidated. Despite that, central security forces were not properly utilised. We have seen that the EC has failed to take steps that are essential for free and fair polls," Bose told the media here.
Claiming a large number of booths were captured across Bolpur, Arambagh, Hooghly and Howrah among others, Bose demanded repolling.
"The EC will have to take a decision about repolling in the booths which have been captured. The EC will have to take stern action. Otherwise, the polls will turn into a farce," Bose said.
CPI-M candidate from Bolpur Ramchandra Dome alleged that "miscreants patronised by the Trinamool Congress were preventing voters from expressing their democratic rights" and approached the poll panel seeking fresh ballting in nearly 100 booths.
In Burdwan, a voter who was reportedly warned not to come out and vote was thrashed in public glare after he exercised his franchise, said CPI-M's Bardhaman Durgapur candidate Saidul Haque.
Congress candidate from Sreerampore Abdul Mannan sat on a demonstration, alleging malpractices by the Trinamool.
"Despite repeated complaints to the EC, no step has been taken. Trinamool workers have driven out all other polling agents from booths and are casting votes in favour of their candidate," said Mannan.
A first information report was filed against Jharna Roy, Trinamool panchayat member from Arambagh in Hooghly district, for allegedly casting the ballot of another voter, Arambagh sub-divisional officer Arindam Roy told IANS.
However, CEO Sunil Kumar Gupta said there were adequate security measures across all the booths and polling was "largely peaceful".
"Either the central or state security forces have been used to provide security cover to all the polling booths. Polling largely has been peaceful in all the seats and wherever we have received complaints, prompt action has been taken," he said.
The BJP has fielded celebrities like Bollywood music composer Bappi Lahiri (Sreerampore), Bengali actor George Baker (Howrah) and eminent journalist Chandan Mitra (Hooghly).
Film actor and sitting Trinamool MP Satabdi Roy is seeking re-election from Birbhum, while in Howrah, the party has nominated former India football captain Prasun Banerjee.
In 2009, Trinamool had won five, and the Left Front spearheaded by CPI-M won four of the seats which vote Wednesday.
Polling has been completed in 10 of the total 42 Lok Sabha constituencies.
The final two phases of polling in the state will take place May 7 (six seats) and May 12 (17 constituencies). The results will be declared May 16.
(Posted on 30-04-2014)