Polling was largely peaceful in the second phase of elections in West Bengal on Sunday, barring Birbhum district, where sporadic violence and intimidation were reported.
Fifty-six seats in seven districts — Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Malda and Birbhum — went to polls in the second phase.
Congress-CPI(M) leaders expect big gains in this phase that saw 79.70% polling at 5pm. The BJP leadership, however, demanded cancellation of elections in all 11 assembly segments of Birbhum, alleging use of force and terror.
Birbhum district was in focus for the EC because of TMC district president Anubrata Mondol, who shot to fame for his repeated intimidation of voters, prompting the poll panel to put him under surveillance. Two FIRs were also lodged against him.
Violence was reported from Nanoor, Panrui, Dubrajpur, Hansan and Sainthia in the district. In Lavpur, TMC workers tried to forcibly enter a polling station and cast vote. The presiding officer called in forces that had to resort to lathi-charge when party members clashed with them. Opposition leaders of the Congress, BJP and CPI(M) alleged that their agents were driven out of the booths.
BJP leaders Babul Supriyo and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi made a representation to the EC headquarters in Delhi to cancel the entire polling process in Birbhum. “We have demanded that polls in all 11 assembly seats of Birbhum be cancelled. TMC has unleashed terror in the district. However, in North Bengal, polls have been more or less peaceful,” said Siddharth Nath Singh, BJP national secretary.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said, “People could go out and vote, barring some stray incidents. Compared to the first phase, the Election Commission did well and fair polls were held in most areas.”
CPI(M) leader Ashok Bhattacharya said, “We will emerge victorious despite TMC undertaking terror tactics. Voting took place in festive spirit.”
Malda and North Dinajpur districts also reported a few stray incidents of intimidation.