Bengal Polls 2021: High voter turnout amid pandemic
The fifth phase of polls in Bengal for 45 Assembly segments spread across six north and south Bengal districts recorded over 78 per cent of polling till 5pm, prompting Election Commission officials to forecast a final turnout of around 85 per cent.
Though high voter turnout was good news for the poll panel, and unlike in the fourth phase, there was no loss of life, the day saw several incidents of manhandling of candidates, attacks on polling agents, complaints against central force jawans and sporadic clashes.
Poll panel sources said that till 5pm, 78.36 percent polling was recorded. This percentage is considered to be on the higher side as polling continued till 6.30pm.
“The final tally could touch 85 to 86 per cent mark. This is considered to be on the higher side as the state usually records 83 to 84 per cent polling in these districts,” said a source.
Sources also said high voter turnout was significant amid the pandemic.
“People are scared as Covid-19 is spreading rapidly in the state. Despite this, the high turnout hints that people of Bengal are politically conscious,” said a poll panel source.
The BJP candidate from Kamarhati in North 24-Parganas, Raju Banerjee, was allegedly attacked and stones were pelted on his car while he was passing through Belgharia bridge on Saturday evening. Banerjee sustained injuries on his hand and chest and his car was damaged. The BJP held Trinamul responsible.
In another incident, the BJP candidate from Barahnagar in North 24-Parganas, actress Parno Mittra, was allegedly gheraoed by Trinamul workers while she went to visit booth 78 of ward 7 of Barahnagar municipality after receiving complaints that proxy voting was on. Trinamul workers allegedly prevented Mittra from entering the booth and demanded she go back.
The BJP candidate from Bidhannagar, Sabyasachi Dutta was gheraoed by a group of Trinamul workers. Trinamul workers demonstrated against Dutta alleging he was influencing voters within the booth premises.
Police arrested an Independent candidate in Nadia’s Chakdah after he was found moving around with an improvised firearm. Police said that the Independent was intimidating voters.
Several polling agents were either attacked or driven out of booths during the day and both Trinamul and the BJP were held responsible for the incidents.
The BJP agent at booth 86 in Minakha’s Telenipara in North 24-Parganas was allegedly abducted in the morning. This is why the party could not field any agent in the booth, the BJP alleged, blaming Trinamul.
BJP agents of booths 40 and 41 in East Burdwan’s Monteswar were allegedly driven out by Trinamul workers. The BJP alleged Trinamul workers beat up some voters.
In Burdwan South seat, the BJP agent of booth 37 was allegedly beaten up by Trinamul workers and received serious head injuries.
The ISF alleged that one of its agents in Basirhat North Assembly segment was beaten by the Trinamul.
Another BJP agent at Burdwan North Assembly segment was allegedly beaten up as soon as polling started, the party blaming Trinamul.
A BJP agent at a booth in Ariadaha in North 24-Parganas’ Kamarhati died inside the booth just before polling started.
District authorities said that though the matter is being probed, preliminary reports suggest cardiac arrest.
There were clashes between BJP and Trinamul supporters in several places.
Trinamul supporter Santu Baul, 18, was shot at in Nadia's Santipur by alleged BJP supporters. The BJP and Trinamul clashed in Santinagar in Bidhanagar till a police contingent dispersed the mob.
In East Burdwan’s Raina, BJP-Trinamul supporters clashed firecely in front of booth 72, and accused each other of intimidating voters.
In Gayeshpur of Nadia’s Kalyani, BJP and Trinamul supporters clashed and both parties accused each other of attacks with crude bombs. The BJP also staged a roadblock demanding arrest of “goons backed by Trinamul”.