Sporadic violence marks Bengal civic polls; police attacked in 2 districts | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Sporadic violence marks Bengal civic polls; police attacked in 2 districts

Feb 27, 2022 04:25 PM IST

There were clashes between supporters of different parties at Jangipur. In Murshidabad’s Berhampore town, Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the local Lok Sabha member, faced obstruction from TMC workers when he was going to cast his vote.

Sporadic incidents, ranging from ransacking of a polling booth to attacks on policemen, interrupted polling in at least eight municipalities on Sunday afternoon, hours after the election began peacefully at 108 civic bodies in West Bengal, making it the biggest electoral exercise since the assembly polls held in March-April last year.

People commuting on a road displaying flags of various parties during the West Bengal civic polls, at Chandannagar, in Hooghly on Sunday. (ANI PHOTO.)
People commuting on a road displaying flags of various parties during the West Bengal civic polls, at Chandannagar, in Hooghly on Sunday. (ANI PHOTO.)

The rate of polling was around 60% in most of the districts till 2 pm. No death was reported till 3.30 pm.

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State officials said Congress supporters blocked NH-12 at Dalkhola in North Dinajpur district in north Bengal and pelted stones at policemen alleging that Trinamool Congress (TMC) was rigging the elections.

“We had to resort to baton charge and lob tear gas shells at Dalkhola. One policeman suffered head injury,” said a district police officer.

In the south Bengal region, police had to take similar action at different locations of Murshidabad district. Electronic voting machines (EVM) were ransacked at three booths in Dhuliyan where seven men were arrested and some crude bombs seized by the police.

There were clashes between supporters of different parties at Jangipur. In Murshidabad’s Berhampore town, Bengal Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the local Lok Sabha member, faced obstruction from TMC workers when he was going to cast his vote.

In South 24 Parganas district, an EVM was ransacked at a booth in the Rajpur-Sonarpur municipal area.

In North 24 Parganas district, there was trouble at Kamarhati where a group of motorcycle-borne men allegedly hurled bombs in an apparent bid to terrorise voters. A mob retaliated by vandalizing at least half a dozen vehicles at civic ward No 39.

“Three men were arrested for the vandalism. In another incident, a man was roughed up on suspicion of being a fake voter,” said a district police officer.

TMC’s Kamarhati legislator Madan Mitra targeted the police for failing to maintain law and order. “Never before have we seen the state police playing such a bad role,” he said.

There were allegations of violence also in the Garulia and Bhatpara municipal areas of North 24 Parganas. BJP state vice-president Arjun Singh, a local Lok Sabha member, said he could not cast his vote at Bhatpara because TMC workers stopped his convoy. Barrackpore joint commissioner of police Ajay Thakur had to rush to the spot to disperse the troublemakers.

Minister and TMC spokesperson Chandrima Bhattacharya described the incidents as “isolated ones”.

“Out of around 10,000 polling booths, incidents have been reported from only a handful. This is not the overall picture. Polls are taking place peacefully. Opposition parties, especially the BJP, are trying to create trouble because they stand no chance of winning. Our workers have been told not to fall for any provocation,” said Bhattacharya.

Some journalists were also injured while covering the violence. One such incident took place at Contai in East Midnapore district.

While condemning the attack on the media, TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “We condemn such attacks but we also do not support the role a section of journalists played. They were blowing up some incidents out of proportion.”

The effect of the incidents was felt in Kolkata.

The BJP started an agitation outside the city police headquarters at Lalbazar while the Congress burnt an effigy of chief minister Mamata Banerjee outside the office of the state election commission which is conducting the polls. The BJP had earlier demanded deployment of Central paramilitary police forces but its petition was rejected by both the Calcutta high court and Supreme Court earlier this week.

Around 10 million voters live in the 108 municipal areas where around 8,000 candidates are in the fray for 2270 seats. The civic bodies are spread across Bengal.

Security arrangements for the civic polls are being handled entirely by the state police. Around 2,000 preventive arrests were made across 20 districts till Saturday night.

The civic elections were postponed for two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Elections at the four major townships of Siliguri, Chandannagar, Asansol and Salt Lake were held on February 12. Polls in Kolkata were held on December 19. TMC emerged victorious in all the polls.

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