Stray violence marks 6th phase of Bengal polls

Kolkata, Apr 22 (PTI): Sporadic incidents of violence were reported on Thursday from various parts of West Bengal where voting is underway for the sixth phase of assembly elections, officials said.
Elections, which began at 7 am, are being held in 43 assembly seats — 17 in North 24 Parganas district, nine each in Nadia and Uttar Dinajpur, and eight in Purba Bardhaman.
Around 57.03 per cent turnout was recorded till 1 pm, an EC official said.
Long queues were seen outside most polling booths with security personnel asking everyone to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols amid the surge in the pandemic everywhere, the official said.
The TMC alleged that two of activists were injured in firing allegedly by the central forces outside booth number 79 in Ashoknagar’s Tangra area after a few party members protested against BJP candidate Tanuja Chakraborty’s visit to the area.
Clashes broke out in the area between the two rival parties in which bombs were hurled, police said adding that unidentified people vandalised one vehicle carrying the central forces.
“Two of my party colleagues are injured after bullets fired by central forces personnel hit them in their legs. Both are undergoing treatment at a nearby hospital,” TMC candidate Narayan Goswami alleged.
The EC, which had sought a report from the officials posted in the district, later dismissed the allegations.
“There was no incident of any firing by the central forces. We have got no such report. This is a baseless allegation,” a senior EC official told PTI.
The allegations brought back memories of the fourth phase of polls held on April 10 when four persons were killed after CISF personnel opened fire in “self-defence” outside a booth in Cooch Behar district’s Sitalkuchi area.
In Uttar Dinajpur’s Chopra area, shots were reportedly fired after clashes broke out between activists of the TMC and the BJP over allegations of heckling by agents of a polling booth.
Both the parties denied having used any firearm and blamed the opposition for the violence.
The office of the chief electoral officer has sought a report on the incident from the local administration.
In Raiganj, sources in the TMC said one of its activists sustained serious injuries after BJP workers allegedly stabbed him. The saffron party has, however, denied the allegations.
Sporadic violence was also reported from the Bijpur constituency in North 24 Parganas, where TMC and BJP supporters clashed outside polling booths. Both the parties accused each other of trying to rig votes.
Two supporters of TMC and three of BJP were reportedly injured in the clashes and a huge contingent of security forces was rushed to the troubled areas to control the situation.
In the Halisahar area of Naihati constituency, the saffron party alleged that bombs were hurled at the residence of a local BJP leader, whose mother and younger brother are known to have suffered injuries. The TMC and the BJP traded charges against each other.
In a separate incident in the area, a TMC worker was injured after unidentified miscreants hacked him.
In the Titagarh area of Barrackpore constituency, clashes broke out between the TMC and the BJP supporters, following which bombs were hurled at each other, leading to severe injuries to five BJP activists.
The injured have been admitted to a nearby hospital, official sources said.
Film director-turned-TMC candidate Raj Chakraborty was gheraoed in the Barrackpore constituency by BJP supporters, who accused him of influencing voters.
Chakraborty denied the allegations.
TMC supporters had a verbal duel with the central forces in Habra constituency when its TMC candidate and state minister Jyotipriyo Mullick visited a polling booth in the area.
In the Dum Dum Uttar constituency, a scuffle broke out between the TMC and BJP supporters when the ruling party opposed the visit of the saffron party candidate Archana Majumdar to the polling stations.
In the Amdanga constituency, country-made crude bombs were recovered by police personnel.
Over 1.03 crore voters are set to decide the political fate of 306 candidates in this phase. As many as 1,071 companies of central forces have been deployed to ensure free and fair polling, officials said.
The voting exercise is underway in 14,480 polling stations of the 43 assembly segments.

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