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Blast on poll day in Raiganj

- Explosion outside SFI booth, Left union retains college

Raiganj, Jan. 28: The CPM’s student wing SFI today won the campus union election at Raiganj’s Surendranath College, bagging 40 of the 41 seats, hours after a bomb was thrown at its booth.

Although the SFI retained the union in Surendranath, across the district, Trinamul has emerged in control of two of the six colleges in North Dinajpur. In both — Itahar College and Kaliaganj College — the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad was uncontested.

The Chhatra Parishad holds Raiganj College, which it won on January 21.

In two other colleges, elections have been held back because of widespread complaints of strong-arm tactics allegedly by the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad and the Congress’s Chhatra Parishad to block the nomination process.

Before 2011, when elections were last held, Trinamul had no student union in any North Dinajpur college.

Today, SFI and Trinamul Chhatra Parishad supporters clashed with sticks and stones after a bomb went off near the Left student outfit’s booth close to the college.

The police baton-charged the students and also used a water cannon to disperse them.

In protest, Trinamul and SFI supporters blocked NH34 at separate points for almost five hours. Both sides demanded the arrest of those involved in the clash.

The roadblock was lifted around 6pm when the results were declared which showed the SFI had retained control of the union. A lone seat of the total 41 went to Trinamul that had fielded candidates in 35 seats.

The Chhatra Parishad does not contest in Surendranath College.

At 10am, voting began amid heavy police presence outside the college which is on NH34. The police set up barricades 500m from the campus on both sides of the highway and were checking photo identity cards of students.

The SFI and the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad had set up their kiosks about 10m from each other to give out slips that had the names of their candidates.

As students collected the slips from these booths, quarrels broke out. Around noon, a bomb landed near the SFI booth. No one was injured but the explosion triggered a free-for-all.

Students threw bricks at each other, which caused minor injuries to supporters on both sides. The police baton-charged and used a water cannon to disperse the mob.

Shops along the highway shut down for the day.

Additional police superintendent David Lepcha, who was at the spot, said: “There was a fight with lathis and stones about 200 metres from the college and we did a lathi-charge and used a water cannon to disperse the crowd. No one has been arrested.”

Indranil Acharya, the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad leader, accused the SFI of not allowing free and fair polls.

“We could field candidates in only 35 of the 41 seats because of SFI intimidation. We have written to the principal demanding that the election be declared illegal as it was not free and fair. We have won one seat and that is a moral victory for us,” Acharya said.

SFI leader Pranesh Sarkar blamed the police and the administration for not being able to escort around 40 SFI supporters to vote after the violence erupted.

“The Trinamul Chhatra Parishad threw a bomb at our booth and attacked us. We kept requesting the police and a deputy magistrate present there to take them inside the college to cast their votes, but they did not heed us. Had these votes been cast, we would have won all the seats,” Sarkar said.

In Siliguri subdivision, elections were held in two colleges. In Bagdogra College, the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad, which was in power, retained the students’ union by winning 28 of the 50 seats. The remaining 22 seats went to the Chhatra Parishad.

The results, however, ended in a draw at Siliguri College of Commerce, where out of 24 seats, 12 each went to Trinamul and the Chhatra Parishad. As the counting ended, demands were made by student leaders to recount the votes.