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Opposition glare on ‘lack’ of central forces at booths

Asansol, May 7: Scene one: CPM polling agent Angad Bauri beaten up with sticks by suspected Trinamul activists inside a booth in Jamuria’s Belbandh around 9 this morning. He was dragged out of booth 235, where no central force personnel were present, and abducted. The booth was on a list of vulnerable polling stations submitted to the Election Commission, where both the CPM and the BJP had demanded deployment of central forces.

Scene two: BJP agent Rajesh Mukherjee beaten up by alleged Trinamul activists at booth 242 in Raniganj and chased away. No central force jawan could be seen.

Scene three: A young man seen entering booth No. 231 at Kaliganj, Durgapur, frequently and “helping” people cast their votes. Central forces not in sight.

Even though 21 companies of central forces had been sent to the Asansol Lok Sabha constituency, the CPM and the BJP alleged that not more than 15 per cent of them were used. The Opposition alleged that Trinamul took advantage of this and resorted to “massive rigging”.

“We had demanded the deployment of central forces in around 800 booths, which we had identified as sensitive, but the administration provided only state armed police personnel. Massive rigging and booth-capturing were done by the ruling party,” said Babul Supriyo, the BJP candidate for Asansol.

“Trinamul workers beat up and chased away our polling agents from at least 100 booths in Raniganj, Jamuria and Pandaveswar. I have lodged a complaint with the district magistrate,” the singer added.

Trinamul supporters protested when Supriyo gave autographs to voters standing in a queue outside a booth in Asansol. The Trinamul supporters accused the singer of influencing voters. Supriyo left the area soon.

CPM candidate Bansagopal Chowdhury alleged rigging by Trinamul and lack of central forces.

“We had demanded the deployment of central forces in 850 booths we had identified as sensitive, but the administration sent them where they were not needed. In Jamuria, where Trinamul activists killed one of our party workers during last year’s panchayat elections, the administration deployed only state armed forces in most booths,” he said.

Chowdhury alleged that Trinamul workers chased away CPM agents “in front of” the state armed forces. “Trinamul activists entered many booths and forced people to vote for their party,” he added.

Asked about the allegations, V. Shivadasan, the Trinamul organising secretary in Asansol, said: “Polling was peaceful, free and fair. The Opposition is resorting to drama, knowing very well it will lose.”

Burdwan district magistrate Saumitra Mohan said central forces had been deployed in adequate numbers.

“We made provisions for video photography and still photography (according to EC rules) at the booths where we could not deploy central forces. It is not compulsory to deploy central forces in every booth that political parties claim is sensitive. We deployed armed forces in all booths. The BJP’s and CPM’s allegations of booth capturing and rigging were investigated but found to be incorrect,” he said.