Nearly two crore vote in Bengal amid clashes
Around two crore people - nearly 80 percent of the electorate - voted Monday in 17 Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal in the final round of India's national election, as 24 people were injured in clashes between rival political activists.
The opposition parties accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of unleashing violence to intimidate voters in various areas. They also claimed that a number of their polling agents were driven out of booths. The Trinamool denied the allegations.
"Till 6 p.m., 79.96 percent polling was recorded," an official said.
By-elections were also held in two assembly constituencies, Santipur and Chakdaha, in Nadia district.
At least 20 people were injured in clashes between activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Trinamool in Haroa block, about 40 km from Kolkata.
Some of the injured, reported to be CPI-M activists, accused the Trinamool of orchestrating the attack and said four of them received bullet injuries when they were going to a polling booth in Basirhat parliamentary constituency.
"We received information about a clash in Haroa in which 20 people are said to be injured," a police officer said, while denying any bullet injuries.
The ruling party, however, claimed 11 of its activists sustained injuries.
A CPI-M agent, who was hospitalised with injuries, said he was assaulted by a group of Trinamool activists and driven out of a polling booth in North 24 Parganas district's Dum Dum.
CPI-M candidate Asim Dasgupta also alleged that Trinamool-backed goons attacked Marxist activists and supporters.
Putting the blazing sun to shame, Kolkata soaked in the poll carnival as senior citizens helped by the younger lot turned out in strength alongside a large number of enthusiastic first time voters.
Among the political stalwarts, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cast their votes.
Banerjee flashed the victory sign after recording her choice in a booth in Kolkata South parliamentary constituency.
Celebrity voters included actors Moon Moon Sen and her daughters Raima and Riya, Dev, Koel Mullick and Sabyasachi Chakraborty, famed magician P.C. Sorcar Junior, besides former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly.
However, in several areas of the city, including Tangra, Bhowanipore and Tiljala, there were allegations of Trinamool activists distributing biriyani to voters.
While the ruling Trinamool rubbished the charge, the alleged distribution of the dish led to an altercation between Trinamool and CPI-M activists, resulting in three of them getting injured in Tiljala.
Deputy Commissioner of police (South East Division) D. Das said three people were injured in the clash and one was arrested. But he denied that bullets were fired.
Among other incidents of violence, two crude bombs were allegedly thrown at the car of former deputy city mayor Mina Devi Purohit by unidentified attackers near Burrabazar.
The bombs, however, missed their mark and no one was injured, police said.
CPI-M Kolkata South candidate Nandini Mukherjee was heckled by some miscreants while she was touring her constituency.
Mala Roy, Congress candidate from the same seat, alleged that polling agents of her party were being driven out and the presiding officers were trying to obstruct voting.
Over 2.56 crore voters were eligible to choose their representatives in 37,670 polling stations for the seats spread across seven districts - Murshidabad, West Midnapore, Nadia, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas, Kolkata and East Midnapore.
Among notable Trinamool candidates were Bengali matinee idol Dev (Ghatal), former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi (Barrackpore), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's grand-nephew Sugato Bose (Jadavpur), Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Mukherjee (Diamond Harbour), and former union minister Sudip Bandopadhyay (Kolkata North).
The CPI-M nominated trade unionist Subhashini Ali in Barrackpore.
The Congress fielded state president and union minister Adhir Chowdhury from Beharampur and eminent painter Samir Aich in Jadavpur. Two former state Congress chiefs Somen Mitra (Kolkata North) and Manas Bhunia (Ghatal) also threw their hats in the ring.
The BJP candidates included state chief Rahul Sinha from Kolkata North and famed magician P.C. Sorcar Junior from Barasat.
The Trinamool won 14 of the seats in 2009, while the Congress, CPI and the Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) bagged one each.
(Posted on 12-05-2014)