|The shattered rear windscreen of the car in which the Election Commission officials were travelling in Salboni. Picture by Samir Mondal
Midnapore, April 26: Alleged Trinamul supporters today roughed up three poll officials and vandalised their car on a West Midnapore highway, apparently mistaking them for aides of the CPI candidate from Midnapore seat.
The three members of the Election Commission’s video-surveillance team were dragged out of their car, shoved around and slapped by attackers who had stopped their vehicle by throwing stones and smashed a windscreen.
The poll officials’ complaint to the Salboni block development officer (BDO) is silent on the attackers’ possible political affiliations. It says the victims were let off after they showed their identity cards to prove they were working for the poll panel.
CPI candidate Probodh Panda, however, told reporters that the attackers were “Trinamul goons” and intended to target him on his way back to Midnapore town from his road show in Pirakata.
“Trinamul goons mistook their car for mine. I escaped because my convoy had already reached Midnapore town,” he said.
Panda was travelling in a white Tata Sumo while the poll officials were in a white Indigo CS.
This is the fifth attack on poll personnel in the state in the past one month, with Trinamul supporters being the accused in each instance. (See chart)
District Trinamul chief Mrigen Maity denied any party activist’s involvement in today’s assault.
The poll officials were returning to Midnapore town after video-recording Panda’s Pirakata rally. Video-surveillance teams have been filming electioneering programmes to check for model code of conduct violations, such as inflammatory speeches or motorbike rallies.
Police said that around 12.30pm, over a dozen people intercepted the poll officials’ car at Kalshibhanga Bazar, about 20km from Midnapore town. “They dragged the officials out. Some of the attackers started banging on the hood of the car while others broke the windscreen,” a commission official later said in Midnapore town.
“The goons abused and pushed our personnel and slapped two of them. They were allowed to go only after they showed their identity cards.”
The complainants were not available for comment.
District magistrate Ghulam Ali Ansari, who is the returning officer for the Midnapore seat, said the administration had taken “a serious view” of the matter.
“A complaint has been lodged by those who were manhandled. The police have been asked to identify those involved,” he said.
Salboni BDO Jayanta Biswas, who had received the complaint, said the charges were being probed and “stringent action will be taken against those involved”.
CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, who visited Midnapore today, condemned the incident and said the repeated attacks on poll personnel in Bengal “reflect the state government’s disrespect for democracy”.
Adhir Chowdhury and Rahul Sinha, the state Congress and BJP chiefs, too condemned the attack.