Mamata Banerjee criticised the Election Commission’s “inaction” on a day voting was marked by two deaths, sporadic violence, complaints of electoral malpractices and a high turnout, while the BJP welcomed the “free and fair” polling.
By 5pm on Thursday, some 80.43 per cent polling had been recorded in the 30 seats spread across four districts that voted in the second phase of the eight-phase Bengal Assembly polls.
“Since voting will continue till 6.30pm, the figure is expected to rise. The turnout is on the higher side; normally 80-82 per cent polling is seen in these areas,” a senior government official said.
More than 130 complaints of malpractices — including “booth capturing”, voters being prevented from reaching the polling booths, and false voting — were registered, with Trinamul lodging about 90 of them, Election Commission sources said.
A commission source said in the evening: “The poll panel inquired into each complaint; none has been found true so far but the final reports on some of them are yet to come.”
“There were some law-and-order issues in some instances, and action was initiated soon after the complaints reached the CEO’s (state chief electoral officer) office in Calcutta.”
The polling percentage was high despite voting being halted for several hours in at least 250 booths because of malfunctioning electronic voting machines, which had to be replaced.
The day began with reports of a murder. A Trinamul Congress worker was stabbed to death in the early hours at Keshpur in West Midnapore — one of the districts that voted on Thursday along with East Midnapore, Bankura and South 24-Parganas.
Police said Uttam Dolui, 48, was at a party office in the Hariharpur area of Keshpur when 10 to 15 people attacked him with sharp weapons. He died on the way to hospital.
Dolui’s family alleged that BJP-backed criminals had murdered him to create tension ahead of the polling. District authorities said seven people had been arrested.
A BJP worker, Uday Dubey, was found hanging at his home in Bhekutia, Nandigram, shortly before polling was to begin.
His family said Dubey had been under mental pressure, having received threats from Trinamul workers after he attended a road show held by veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty in support of BJP Nandigram candidate Suvendu Adhikari.
Primary investigations suggest that Dube committed suicide but the matter is being probed further, the district police said.
Violence was reported from several places including Keshpur, where BJP candidate Pritish Ranjan Konar’s car was attacked in the morning, prompting him to run to Keshpur police station for shelter.
The car of one of Konar’s booth agents had been vandalised earlier in the day while it was driving the candidate’s election agent to a booth.
In the evening, the polling agent of the Trinamul candidate from Keshpur, Shiuli Saha, was heavily assaulted outside a booth, allegedly by BJP workers. He was hit in the head with sticks and would be admitted to hospital, sources said.
Alleged BJP workers attacked the car of actor Soham Chakraborty, Trinamul candidate from the East Midnapore constituency of Chandipur.
From Sabang, West Midnapore, Trinamul candidate Manas Bhunia alleged that a group of outsiders had created panic in the area shortly before polling was to begin by targeting the cars and motorcycles of Trinamul leaders and workers.
Trinamul lodged some 20 complaints of booth capturing from Nandigram and Moyna, both in East Midnapore. Similar complaints came from Keshpur and Kharagpur in West Midnapore, Barjora in Bankura and Patharpratima in South 24-Parganas.
A visibly angry chief minister accused the poll panel of inaction over Trinamul complaints.
“We have lodged 63 complaints with the ECI (Election Commission of India) but no action has been taken so far. We will move court,” she said in the afternoon, stuck in a booth in Boyal, East Midnapore.
Mamata had arrived at the spot following complaints that the BJP had captured the booth. She was stuck in the booth for nearly two hours as sloganeering Trinamul and BJP supporters gathered outside, thickening tensions.
The BJP, which too lodged complaints of electoral malpractices at Debra and Keshpur in West Midnapore and Barjora in Bankura, appeared happy with the polling process on the whole.
“The second phase was more or less peaceful. Trinamul has sensed that it is losing ground, so it’s started lodging complaints,” Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told a television channel.
Commission sources said the poll panel had instructed district authorities to act swiftly if there was violence. Detailed reports have been sought from the district authorities on the two deaths.