A bomb exploded in Burrabazar on polling day just as a BJP leader was stepping out of home, ending almost two decades of incident-free elections in this trading hub that holds the key to one of the two Calcutta seats.
Another blast occurred around 100 metres from Meena Devi Purohit’s house within half an hour, triggering allegations that workers of the ruling Trinamul Congress were trying to intimidate the four-time councillor because of the perceived swell of BJP supporters in the area.
| BJP councillor Meena Devi Purohit; (above) the spot where the second bomb exploded. (Bishwarup Dutta)
Around 5.30 in the evening, 30 minutes before the deadline for voting, a third crude bomb blew up not far from the site of the second explosion.
Purohit, the councillor of ward 22, said the first attack occurred around 11.30am when she was just outside the entrance to her residence. “I saw two men on a bike hurl something in my direction. I ran inside the building for cover. The bomb went off on the carriageway just in front of my house.”
One person suffered minor shrapnel injuries in the first incident. Nobody was injured in the other two. Till late on Monday, the police hadn’t arrested anyone for the attacks.
Burrabazar is part of the Calcutta North Lok Sabha constituency, where the four-cornered contest involves former state Congress president Somen Mitra, BJP state president Rahul Sinha, sitting MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay and CPM councillor Rupa Bagchi.
Calcutta North accounts for 60 of the 141 wards of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Trinamul has 38 councillors from the area, though Burrabazar had bucked the green trend that prevailed across the city during the last civic elections in 2010.
Burrabazar comprises six municipal wards, none of which voted for Trinamul in the 2010 civic polls despite the party winning almost everything in the vicinity. Overall, the party had won in 94 of the 141 municipal wards.
Among Burrabazar’s six, the BJP got three, the CPM two and the Congress one.
Sources said that if the BJP did well in the trade hub despite the Mamata wave in 2010, chances are it would do several notches better this time. A better BJP show in Burrabazar would, of course, dent Trinamul’s performance in Calcutta North.
“The Trinamul Congress is scared because the party knows it has lost its base in the area. By hurling bombs, it is trying to intimidate our voters,” Purohit said.
If the bombs were hurled to scare away voters, they failed to achieve that objective. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Calcutta North had polled 64.38 per cent votes. This time, the percentage increased marginally to 64.66, after the 6pm count. The final tally could be higher.
BJP leaders alleged that the fear of a surge in the party’s vote share in the area had triggered attempts by Trinamul to disrupt polling in Burrabazar.
“Trinamul workers had been intimidating the people of Burrabazar over the past few days. They had also been threatening our workers and causing hurdles for our campaign,” Purohit said.
Sunita Jhawar, the BJP councillor from ward number 42, joined in the tirade against Trinamul. “Here, the contest is between the BJP and Trinamul. Businessmen of the area have suffered a lot because of corruption in the Trinamul ranks. To them, the BJP is the natural choice that can provide a peaceful work environment in the area. This is what the TMC is scared of.”
BJP workers accused the state administration of not using central forces judiciously in the area. “Even after two bombs went off, no central forces were deployed here,” a party worker said.
BJP candidate Rahul Sinha said: “Trinamul knows that it won’t win if the people get an opportunity to cast their votes. To stop people from voting, the party resorted to intimidation. We have asked our workers to compile reports on all such instances, which we will submit to the Election Commission.”
Calcutta had last witnessed an outbreak of polling-day violence in the 1990 civic elections when bombs were hurled in the Muchipara area of central Calcutta.
Trinamul leader Sanjay Bakshi, husband of the local MLA Smita Bakshi, said: “Our party has nothing to do with the bomb attacks.”