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Rigging shout softer, but let-down cry
- Poll panel claims quick action, probe

Calcutta, May 7: A few CPM and BJP polling agents were allegedly beaten up, and FIRs were lodged against two Trinamul leaders, one of them an MLA accused of casting over 100 false votes.

“Barring a few minor, unrelated incidents,” the state election commission said, today’s polling in Bengal was “free, fair and peaceful”.

But the Opposition said it felt “let down” by the panel, citing scores of alleged instances of booth-capturing, false voting and violence and pointing to the absence of the central forces from many booths they had identified to the commission as vulnerable.

An FIR on charges of false voting has been lodged against the Trinamul MLA from Sonamukhi in Bankura, Deepali Saha. Another has been filed against her party colleague Monika Mahato, apparently seen talking to voters at a booth in Purulia’s Balarampur, whose presiding officer has been removed.

Off the record, a few Left and Congress leaders said the six constituencies that voted today witnessed fewer instances of rigging than the third phase on April 30.

A CPM team led by Sitaram Yechury met the commission’s full bench in Delhi and demanded re-polling in 301 booths. The party had cited 1,326 booths on April 30.

Asansol, where CPM state secretary Biman Bose alleged 63 booths were captured, and Bishnupur accounted for the highest number of complaints. A sample:

CPM polling agent Angad Bauri thrashed and thrown out of booth 235 at Jamuria’s Belbandh;

BJP agent Rajesh Mukherjee beaten up by alleged Trinamul activists at booth 242 in Raniganj;

A young man entered booth 231 at Kaliganj, Durgapur, and “helped” people cast votes.

Former state Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya echoed Bose and state BJP secretary Ritesh Tiwari gave the commission “a big zero”.

A Congress leader in Burdwan said 10 Opposition workers were in hospital after attacks by ruling party supporters but added: “The number was at least 30 in the third phase.”

State chief electoral officer Sunil Kumar Gupta said: “We took action wherever necessary, probed every complaint”.

The panel said it sent central forces and drove out the intruders after an Opposition complaint about Trinamul having captured booths 171, 172 and 184 in Danton, Midnapore. The presiding officer at booth 25 in Khandaghosh, Bishnupur, was removed on complaints of inaction.

“I leave it to you to judge how this phase went,” said Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, the special observer who had come under Opposition fire for declaring free and fair polls on April 30. “If I say anything, it might again be interpreted as my defence of the phase.”

At a Maheshtala rally, Mamata Banerjee dismissed the Opposition allegations.

At 6pm, the turnout was 85.67 per cent in Jhargram, 79.79 per cent in Purulia, 89.18 per cent in Bishnupur, 82.52 per cent in Bankura, 76.88 per cent in Asansol and 85.69 per cent in Midnapore.

Gupta said the overall 81.28 per cent was 4 percentage points higher than 2009.