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Repoll peaceful, fears over counting

Calcutta, May 12: The bulk of repolling over, the focus of the state administration turned to counting tomorrow.

Barring one or two stray incidents, repolling in 31 booths in 20 parliamentary constituencies went off peacefully, chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee said.

“About 74 per cent vote was cast in the repolling today,” inspector-general of police (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said.

Police, however, are anticipating trouble in some pockets of Bengal tomorrow when counting is going to be held. “We have already informed district SPs that adequate patrolling be held in the areas where violence is anticipated once the trends are clear or results are out,” said Mukherjee.

As a precautionary measure, all the central paramilitary forces sent to the state to ensure peaceful and free polling have been retained.

Though Mukherjee was ignorant about any post-poll violence today, five CRPF jawans sustained injuries at Harmore in Birbhum’s volatile Nanoor area when bombs were hurled on a joint team of CRPF and state police jawans conducting a raid in connection with investigations into a clash on polling day. Police are continuing raids. No arrests were reported till evening.

In another incident, a group of miscreants torched the houses of two Congress supporters — Sukuruddin Sheikh and Jamsher Ali — in Shiteshnagar village under Lalgola police station in Murshidabad. No injury was reported.

In Bankura, armed miscreants attacked the CPM’s Narayanpur local committee office in Patrashayar. Five persons have been arrested in this connection.

Tight security rings have been thrown around the counting centres and the strong rooms where the electronic voting machines have been kept, the chief electoral officer said.

With hours left before the results are out, there was much speculation about the fate of candidates in seats like Jangipur, where the Congress has fielded Pranab Mukherjee after 24 years, Behrampore, where the Congress’ Adhir Chowdhury is in the fray, and Diamond Harbour, where Trinamul’s Sougata Roy is contesting.

In 1999, of the 42 seats in Bengal, the Left Front had bagged 29, the Trinamul Congress had won eight, the BJP two and the Congress three.

The mainline parties are all crowing that they would increase their tally with Mamata Banerjee promising a few surprises and Left Front chairman Biman Bose claiming a clean sweep of all 42 seats.

As the race for government formations hots up, so are intra- and inter-party parleys. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he would leave for Delhi to attend the CPM politburo meeting slated for May 15.

“We will discuss strategies…. We will try and set up a third front first. If it is not possible then we will help the Congress to form a government. But at any cost we will not let the communal BJP form a government at the Centre,” he said.

Pranab Mukherjee left for Delhi last evening as the Congress, riding the wave of its Andhra success, plunged into negotiations. Party leaders Somen Mitra and Pradip Bhattacharya have arrived in Jangipur to keep tabs on his electoral fate.

The Trinamul Congress kept its focus on polling, with the party unit in Hooghly complaining that cent per cent vote had been cast in several booths of the Hooghly constituency under Polba, Dhanekhali and Bansberia Assembly segments. Tapan Dasgupta, the chief district election agent of the party, said Trinamul would submit a complaint to the chief electoral officer.

A day before results, the CPM faced a major embarrassment in North 24-Parganas, where police arrested a party supporter in connection with the two murders at Sasan in Barasat after polling on Monday night.

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