The crucial third phase of the West Bengal assembly polls passed off peacefully on Wednesday with a 78.3% turnout till 6:30pm.
The Election Commission (EC) emerged as the new headmaster in town checking cars, frisking handbags, forbidding cell phones and chasing away just about anybody in order to maintain its iron grip on Kolkata and the two adjoining districts of North and South-24 Parganas, which went to polls.
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee cried foul, a first in the present elections in the state.
“Since morning CPM, with the help of a section of police, has continued rigging in Jadavpur constituency to save CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. This took place in a number of polling stations like Raipur government high school and Nari Silpa Niketan. We have already lodged a complaint with the EC,” said Banerjee.
However, according to the state’s chief electoral officer Sunil Gupta, polling was by and large peaceful. Setting new standards of strictness in conducting elections, the central paramilitary forces took control of the booths from Wednesday morning.
“The EC succeeded putting the fear of God into the criminals who indulge in booth capturing. It prompted people to come out and vote in large numbers, over 90% in some pockets,” said Amit Mitra, Trinamool candidate in Khardah.
CPM candidate in Ballygunge Fuad Halim, however, was not quite happy. “The confidence that the paramilitary instilled among voters was commendable, but they were over strict at times. I was not allowed to enter a few booths in my constituency,” he said.
While in Jadavpur, Bhattacharjee, battled against Trinamool’s Manish Gupta, in Dumdum, another CPM heavyweight, Gautam Deb, was pitted against Trinamool’s Bratya Basu.
First-timer Basu was seen doing the rounds of booths, while five-time MLA Deb cooled his heels with his iPad. Confident of his win Basu said, “So many people turning out for voting means that people now want change… I know I will win.”
With PTI inputs