The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll no wrestling ring, Anil reminds rivals
- Scraps rock peace boat

May 22: Minutes after the ballot battle for control of 79 municipalities across Bengal drew to a close this afternoon, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas asked the Opposition to take on the party politically, not wrestle with it.

'Election is not a wrestling ring. This is a political battle and should be fought politically,' he said, holding Congress workers responsible for violence in pockets.

Though the polling was largely peaceful, Tarun Kotal, a CPM activist, was killed in Budge Budge, South 24-Parganas and 'untoward incidents' were reported from several other places.

Biswas's sermon to the Opposition was in response to allegations of the CPM unleashing terror made by Pankaj Banerjee, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly and a key Trinamul Congress functionary.

Banerjee accused the CPM of rigging the polls either by booth jamming or by intimidating voters. 'We have reports that the cadre, with assistance from policemen on duty, terrorised innocent voters. Let the CPM withdraw policemen from election duty and confine them to the barracks, we will show how to tackle them (the cadre),' he said.

Re-polling has been ordered in eight booths in North 24-Parganas and one in South, state election commissioner Ajoy Sinha said.

Alleged CPM supporters turned out reporters from a polling station at Khardah in North 24-Pargans.

In ward 14 of Katwa, bombs were hurled outside three booths around the same time during a clash between CPM and Congress supporters that left seven injured. Seven people were arrested.

In Nadia, two boys were picked up from Birnagar for alleged booth-jamming.

Around 2.30 pm, six people tried to force their way into a booth at Brahmapur School in Noapara. Police fired three rounds in the air and the intruders were taken into custody.

At Chinsurah in Hooghly, some unused ballot papers were stolen after the voting was completed.

Across north Bengal, the elections were peaceful.

However, there was commotion at a booth in Jalpaiguri municipality's ward 25, when an old man dropped his ballot paper into a post-box on the premises. The authorities had to contact the post-office and retrieve the ballot.

Sinha said in Calcutta that around 75 per cent votes were polled across the state. The highest counts were possibly at Joynagar in South 24-Parganas and Mirik in Darjeeling where over 90 per cent votes were polled.

People made their way to booths despite killing heat and humidity.

Counting will take place on Wednesday and the results are expected the same afternoon.

Additional director-general (law and order) Chayan Mukherjee said the police fired four shots in the air during the day. Altogether, 214 people were arrested ' 172 of them were picked up to prevent trouble.

The police seized four weapons, four rounds of ammunition, eight bombs and nine vehicles from various parts of Bengal. All the vehicles were, however, picked from North 24-Parganas.

State Congress general secretary Manas Bhuniya demanded re-polling in all booths of the 13 municipalities covering the district's industrial belt.

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