The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rigged or not, polls peaceful

Nov. 30: Elections to the municipalities of Jhargram, Behrampore and Krishnagar and the corporation in Howrah passed off peacefully but for stray incidents.

The state election commission said 80 per cent votes were polled on an average. Counting of ballots will begin from noon tomorrow and the results are expected by evening.

A repoll has been ordered in ward 32 of the Howrah corporation. Miscreants assaulted the polling personnel there and snatched ballot papers, secretary of the commission Kalyan Kumar Chakraborty said in Calcutta.

Deputy inspector-general (headquarters) Narayan Ghosh said 10 people were arrested in connection with the disruptions.

Around 12.30 pm, the police resorted to lathicharge in ward 30 of Howrah after a mob hurled bombs and tried to chase away voters. The Rapid Action Force was deployed after the presiding officer was manhandled.

By-elections were held in two wards each of Bolpur, Rampurhat, Murshidabad, Konnagar, Gobardanga and Alipurduar municipalities. These results will also be announced tomorrow.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said the elections were a farce. “CPM cadre captured most of the booths in Howrah and prevented voters from casting their ballots,” he added. The Congress alleged “large-scale rigging”.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said: “Congress activists tried to capture booths in many wards of Howrah and their supporters poured water in ballot boxes at a booth in ward 32. In Behrampore, the Congress tried to disrupt peaceful polling in 41 booths. We have demanded re-poll in two of them.”

Charges and counter-charges were heard from other districts as well. In Krishnagar, CPM MP from Nabadwip Alakesh Das complained of “police excesses” on CPM supporters.

In Jhargram, the Opposition parties accused the CPM of hiring goons. Kishore Soren, a Jharkhand Party (Naren Hansda) candidate, said the police did not pay heed to his charges.

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