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Stray sparks on hot hustings day

“Take a good look at me,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, seated in a plush leather chair behind a vast wooden desk in the study of his Gariahat residence. “There is not a trace of tension. I’m very relaxed, very cool.”

Despite the bluster the first citizen was barely able to hide the nerves, locked as he was in one of the fiercest and most expensive electoral battles of a 35-year-old political career.

The mayor’s tension mirrored the mood of the city. Against a backdrop of a jungle of cut-outs, banners and buntings, Calcutta, Jadavpur and Dum Dum witnessed not one, but five high-profile battles on a hot Monday.

For over 10 hours from 7 am, neighbourhoods in Calcutta, Jadavpur and Dum Dum reverberated to poll beat as men and women started queuing up to exercise their franchise.

Violence cast a shadow on the election in Calcutta Northeast, Northwest, Jadavpur and Dum Dum. The election was generally peaceful, under the watchful eyes of the Election Commission appointees. Nearly 300 people were arrested and 100 motorcycles seized.

Polling was most violent in Calcutta Northeast, where Ajit Panja of the Trinamul Congress, the CPM’s Mohd Salim and Moushumi Chatterjee of the Congress slugged it out. A group of Trinamul supporters allegedly torched a CPM camp office on Rajendralal Mitra Road, in Beleghata, early on Monday. Soon after, two bombs were hurled in front of a local school.

At around 10.45 am, at least a dozen bombs were hurled by alleged CPM activists from a speeding car. As a result, some voters sustained splinter injuries. Jawans of the Rapid Action Force rushed in to restore order. Voting resumed after an hour.

On Sir Hariram Goenka Street at Chitpur, in Calcutta Northwest constituency, three persons were injured when bombs were hurled in front of a polling booth, allegedly by the CPM.

“Look what the CPM is doing. Even the Trinamul members are not protesting,” said Sudip Bandopadhyay.

In the Dum Dum constituency, CPM candidate Amitava Nandy was allegedly heckled by Trinamul activists at Salt Lake.

In Jadavpur, six persons were injured in Rajarampur and in Keyapukur and Gangrai, where bombs were hurled and shots fired from revolvers. Independent candidate Badan Bairagi was “kidnapped” by the CPM.

A moment of high drama on Monday was reserved for Mamata Banerjee. What else do you say about a convoy of 30 cars criss-crossing one part of Calcutta South, all because the Trinamul leader wanted to take a “slight detour” on her way from her 30 B Harish Chatterjee Street residence to her polling booth at Mitra Institution'

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