High turnout in Bengal assembly bypolls, BJP candidate allegedly assaulted
Polling for three assembly constituencies in West Bengal on Monday were largely peaceful, barring a few incidents of violence, including one in which Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state unit vice-president and Karimpur candidate Jay Prakash Majumdar was manhandled, kicked and pushed into a roadside ditch allegedly by the workers of Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Majumdar did not suffer any major injury because he fell in thick bushes. The election commission has sought a report from the state election office.
Rate of polling was higher than what is usually witnessed in by-elections. Till 5 pm, Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur district recorded 77% of polling, while Karimpur (Nadia district) and Kharagpur Sadar (West Midnapore district) recorded 81% and 67% polling respectively.
The state election office said that the updated polling figures will be available on Tuesday. The results will be declared on November 28.
There are more than seven lakh voters in the three seats. Polls were held in Karimpur and Kharagpur because the legislators, TMC’s Mahua Moitra and BJP’s Dilip Ghosh, were elected to the Lok Sabha a few months ago. In Kaliagunj, the bypoll was necessitated by the death of Congress legislator Pramanath Roy.
Following the manhandling of Majumdar, deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain sought a report from the state’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab. According to an officer at the CEO’s office, the superintendent of police in Nadia district in his report said that the police had earlier offered Majumdar a personal security officer but he declined the offer.
“Mamata Banerjee does not believe in democracy anymore. Apprehending that TMC might lose the three constituencies, the party’s goons and police have become desperate. We demand immediate removal of the superintendent of police and the district magistrate of Nadia,” said Mukul Roy, BJP national executive member, after meeting the CEO.
The TMC has denied any involvement in the attack on Majumdar.
Minister and TMC’s poll observer at Karimpur, Rajib Banerjee said, “Majumdar had been creating disturbance since morning and stopping people from casting their votes because he knew that he stood no chance. The attack on Majumdar is either a fallout of infighting in the local BJP, a section of which is against his candidature, or has been staged by the him to draw sympathy. Our people are not at all involved.”
TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee also rubbished the BJP’s charge. “Mamata Banerjee is too pre-occupied to bother about bye-elections in three constituencies. With such a large turnout, we are hopeful of a good performances but only if people have been allowed to cast their vote in a free and fair manner,” he said.
Majumdar first faced agitation from Trinamool Congress supporters at Thanarpara and was later manhandled at Ghiyaghat. The police and central paramilitary forces were in the vicinity when he came under attack.
“The attack on the BJP candidate is a shame on democracy,” said Sujan Chakraborty, the Left leader in the state Assembly.
State Congress president Somen Mitra alleged that neither the state police nor the central paramilitary forces tried to ensure free and fair polling.
Earlier in the day, the police chased away some TMC workers after they staged a demonstration and shouted ‘go back’ slogans for Majumdar at Thanarpara in Karimpur. Majumdar alleged that TMC workers did not allow the BJP to place its polling agent in a booth at Thanarpara. He allegedly also had an altercation with Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel when they stopped him from entering a polling station since he was not a local voter.
In another poll-related incident, BJP candidate from Kaliyaganj Kamal Chandra Sarkar was accused of showing his wife where to cast her vote. The TMC lodged a complaint with the state Election Commission following which the presiding officer was replaced. A show cause notice was also issued to Sarkar by the CEO. “My wife and I have always voted together,” Sarkar said in his defence.
At Kharagpur Sadar, a glass wall inside a polling booth was covered after the BJP alleged that it was showing reflections of the voting area where the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) was placed.
“The attack on our candidate proves that democracy has died in Bengal. What was the police doing when people pounced on him? It was a deadly attack,” said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh.
The BJP also complained of rigging at Goalpara in Kaliaganj constituency. Some supporters of TMC and BJP were injured in a scuffle.