At 75 per cent, the highest polling among the eight states that voted on Thursday was recorded in West Bengal, where 17 of 42 seats went to the polls. But three killings, one each in Asansol, Jangipur and Murshidabad and scores of clashes between CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress workers and widespread reports of booth capturing took away the sheen of the achievement.
The most dramatic clashes occurred at Nandigram, 70 km south west of Kolkata, even though these did not lead to any deaths. This is the same spot, part of the Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency, which saw two gory confrontations between the CPI(M) and the Trinamool in 2007, during the first of which in March 14 people were killed in police firing.
The two main adversaries are the sitting CPI(M) MP Laxman Seth, 60, and the Trinamool’s Suvendu Adhikary.
On Thursday, Trinamool used the strategy of early voting to neutralise the CPI(M). A top Trinamool leader said: “The CPI(M) check out the names of those who haven’t voted and cast bogus votes. But this operation usually starts after lunch and so, by voting early, we prevented them from doing so.”
Frustrated CPI(M) workers then allegedly started capturing polling stations in the areas where they were strong. Trinamool men responded in kind within their strongholds.
By evening, the CPI(M) and Trinamool were both bitterly accusing each other of rigging. “Trinamool has captured 46 polling stations. They have injured our workers. What they have done is unbelievable,” said Ashok Guria, CPI(M) District Secretariat member in-charge of Nandigram. "The CPI-M unleashed terror, but the police cannot help them win this time. The CPI-M will lose despite indulging in violence," Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee responded.