Lok Sabha elections | Scuffles, protests mar polling in three Bengal constituencies

The polls were largely peaceful with over 80.55% of the voters exercising their franchise across constituencies till 6 p.m.,says EC; voter sustained injuries in his eye while coming out of polling booth in Sitalkuchi; crude bombs recovered

Updated - April 20, 2024 07:21 am IST

Published - April 19, 2024 12:34 pm IST - Kolkata

An elderly voter being assisted as he arrives to cast his vote for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Cooch Behar, on April 19, 2024.

An elderly voter being assisted as he arrives to cast his vote for the first phase of Lok Sabha elections, in Cooch Behar, on April 19, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Sporadic incidents of scuffle between supporters of political parties, recovery of crude bombs and angry protests against MLAs headlined the first phase of Lok Sabha election in West Bengal on Friday.

Elections were held for the Jalpaiguri, Alipuduar and Cooch Behar seats in the State and according to the Election Commission of India (EC) voting was largely peaceful with over 77.57% people exercising their franchise till 5pm. Till the last count, the voter turnout in Cooch Behar was 77.73%; 79.33% in Jalpaiguri and 75.54% in Alipurduar. Polling continued till 6pm and the figures are expected to rise.

In the Cooch Behar Lok Sabha seat, where the EC had deployed 112 companies of Central Armed Police Forces, political parties levelled allegations of violence against each other.

A voter sustained injuries in his eye in Sitalkuchi when he was coming out after casting his vote. A BJP supporter said he was attacked by a sickle on the way to a polling booth. There were reports of crude bombs being placed outside the house of a BJP booth president in an attempt to scare him away. Violence was reported from Chandmari and Mathabhanga in the constituency where supporters of the BJP and the Trinamool came to blows. Videos aired by local television channels showed people throwing stones and pushing and shoving one another.

Also read: Lok Sabha polls | Tea and identity politics dominate the first phase of elections in West Bengal

At Bhetaguri in Dinhata block, Trinamool supporters accused the BJP workers of inciting violence. The ruling party said BJP’s Cooch Behar candidate Nisith Pramanik was behind the attacks. Mr. Pramanik said as long as the Trinamool remains in power, there will be violence in elections. “People of Cooch Behar could not vote in panchayat polls and municipal polls. Today they are resisting the attempts by Trinamool to loot votes,” he said.

At Dinhata in Cooch Behar, a group of BJP supporters raised slogans against State Minister Udayan Guha. A crowd, which included mostly women, tried to gherao Mr. Guha. Mr. Pramanik said the Minister faced protests because he was rude to the women. “The Trinamool Congress wants to implement Sandeshkhali model across the state. He got what he deserved,” the BJP leader said.

BJP MLAs Sikha Chattopadhyay from Dabgram Phulbari and Baren Chandra Barman faced protests from Trinamool supporters when they visited polling booths in their constituencies. When police tried to arrest Ms. Chattopadhyay in Siliguri, BJP supporters clashed with the police.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was campaigning at Hariharpara in Murshidabad district, accused the central forces of political bias. “I am not against central forces but this is the first time that the BJP is using central forces as their cadres,” Ms. Banerjee said. She raised questions on why only central forces were used in Cooch Behar and the State police were not deployed.

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