The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Car catch and farce cry in bypolls

June 8: The twin bypolls — for the Nabadwip Lok Sabha seat and the Vidyasagar Assembly constituency — concluded this evening without official reports of violence and amid Trinamul Congress allegations of “the administration’s direct involvement” in booth-capturing.

The main Opposition party in the state said officials were hand in glove with CPM cadre at Chakdah and Kalyani in Nabadwip.

Bombs were hurled, allegedly by both CPM and Trinamul supporters, in the bypoll in the city. Mahatma Gandhi Road, Ratu Sarkar Lane, Syed Sali Lane (in front of Tantiya School) and Bidhan Sarani (in front of Arya Kanya School) were witness to poll violence.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee’s car was seized in Nabadwip while he was doing the rounds to check if polling was smooth. As he was leaving the Ranaghat municipality guesthouse, his driver was detained.

The election commission’s code of conduct on polling day prohibits party functionaries from using cars beyond demarcated areas, said Nadia district magistrate K.K. Pal. Each candidate was allotted eight cars to oversee the poll process, he added.

Trinamul pointed fingers at the roles played by the district magistrate, the sub-divisional officer of Kalyani, Prasun Banerjee, and sub-divisional police officer Swapan Pal.

They “assisted in the rigging of 49 booths in the Chakdah Assembly segment”, Trinamul MLA Jyotipriya Mallick said.

“The CPM did whatever it could in this area as they would otherwise have lost by a huge margin,” said the legislator from Gaighata in North 24-Parganas. “The incidents turned the election into a farce.”

“The leader of Opposition was harassed unnecessarily,” said Mallick. “He was neither within the stipulated 200 m of the polling booth nor was he planning to go anywhere near.”

Trinamul, however, has not demanded a repoll in the area.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas claimed that the party would “win” both the seats. The byelections were smooth, apart from some Trinamul moves to disrupt the “peaceful poll process in Nabadwip”, said Biswas.

Rebutting the Trinamul allegations of Banerjee being harassed, he alleged that the Opposition leader had tried to enter booths in Ranaghat and the police were forced to seize his vehicle.

Trinamul MP Ranjit Panja and MLA Dipak Ghosh, too, tried to enter some booths in Haringhata, Biswas alleged. “CPM supporters were injured when Congress MLA Ajay De led a mob attack on booths in Shantipur,” claimed Biswas.

Chief electoral officer S.N. Haque said till last reports, there was 67 per cent polling in Nabadwip and 61 per cent polling in Vidyasagar.

Nadia district magistrate Pal said: “I have been reported by a particular party about the misconduct of officials in areas such as Gayeshpur, Chakdah and Bedi Bhavan in the Kalyani subdivision. The allegations were reported to the two election observers also. An additional district magistrate is scrutinising these allegations.”

Inspector-general, south Bengal, N.R. Das said 15 people were arrested for “trouble-making”. Earlier, voting was halted for about half-an-hour in four booths, two in Nabadwip and two in Vidyasagar, after electronic voting machines developed snags.

The chief electoral officer received several complaints of booth-capturing throughout the day but “none of these turned out to be true”, said Haque.

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