High turnout in 5th round of polling in Bengal
Polling in West Bengal’s 45 assembly segments in six districts was held peacefully in the fifth phase on Saturday, barring some stray incidents of violence reported mostly from Nadia and North 24 Parganas districts, election officials said.
Polling in East Burdwan in south Bengal and the three north Bengal districts of Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri was held smoothly. Till 5pm, 78.36 % votes were polled in the six districts, the Election Commission (EC) said in a statement.
The total numbers of voters and candidates in the fifth phase were 45,756,282 and 1,259, respectively.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) is contesting 291 of the state’s 294 seats this year, leaving the three hill seats of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong to the two factions of the GJM that are supporting chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the other constituencies of north Bengal.
Unlike the fourth phase held on April 10, in which an 18-year-old youth was murdered and four men were killed in firing by the central armed police force (CAPF) during an alleged attack at Sitalkuchi in north Bengal, there was no report of any death or police firing on Saturday.
Of the eight phases, the fifth witnessed the biggest electoral exercise amid rising Covid-19 cases and deaths. EC deployed 853 companies of CAPF on Saturday.
EC thanked voters for following Covid-19 protocols and said women turned up in large numbers at the 15,789 polling stations.
Allegations of attacks and intimidation were raised by the TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at Bidhan Nagar (Salt Lake), Rajarhat-New Town, Kamarhati, Baranagar, Hingalganj and Panihati in North 24 Parganas and Shantipur, Kalyani, Ranaghat North West and Ranaghat South in Nadia district.
Of the 45 seats that went to the polls, 21 are reserved for scheduled caste (SC) candidates. Most of the violence was reported from these reserved constituencies. Incidentally, both BJP and TMC are trying to secure the support of Dalit Hindu voters, especially the Rajbanshis in north Bengal and the Namasudras in south Bengal.
Gayeshpur in the Kalyani reserved constituency in Nadia witnessed several small clashes between TMC and BJP supporters.
BJP Lok Sabha member from Bongaon in North 24 Parganas and leader of the Dalit Matua community Shantanu Thakur visited Gayeshpur and alleged that TMC supporters committed electoral malpractices but the local police looked the other way. “TMC workers also intimidated our voters,” he said.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said the allegations were baseless.