Despite sporadic clashes, Bengal polls 38% in 6 hours (Ld)

Kolkata, April 1 (IANS) A very confident looking Suvendu Adhikari claimed over 80 per cent polling by the day ends, given the fact that he saw serpentine queues outside polling booths in Nandigram starting 5 a.m. — much ahead the electoral process started on Thursday.

Six hours into polling for the 30 assembly constituencies in the second phase, the Election Commission reported 38.23 per cent voter turnout.

Signalling the high voter turnout as 75,94,549 electorate decide the fate of 171 candidates on the day, Adhikari told the media that it will be landslide of sort as he has watched how enthusiastically the voters have answered to the BJP’s call for voting in large numbers.

Polling is taking place amid strict Covid-19 guidelines in nine seats of Paschim Medinipur, eight in Bankura, four in South 24 Parganas and nine seats in Purba Medinipur.

The epicentre of course is the battle in Nandigram — with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee taking on her protege-turned-bete noire Adhikari.

Hours before the voting began, a Trinamool Congress worker, Uttam Golui, was hacked to death in Keshpur, Paschim Medinipur outside a party office. The Trinamool has accused the BJP of murdering Golui.

Violence have been reported from some parts of districts. A woman polling agent of BJP at booth number 173 in Keshpur was beaten up allegedly by Trinamool workers.

BJP leader Tanmay Ghosh’s car was vandalised in Keshpur assembly constituency. Keshpur was placed under massive security after stones were thrown at the BJP candidate’s car.

Earlier, some CPI-M workers agitated at Ghatal after they were allegedly stopped by Trinamool workers as they were on their way to cast their vote.

Asked whether there has been a spike in violence at this year’s poll, Adhikari told the media that now that there was an opposition to the ruling dispensation, there was bound to be some reaction.

By and large, though the situation was peaceful, poll panel officials said.

Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: “BJP and their mind games! Won’t work. Trinamool booth agents ROCK SOLID in 354 booths in #Nandigram. We have registered complaints for 10 booths. All attempts by CRPF to influence/intimidate voters not working. People determined to have @MamataOfficial as their MLA.”

His tweet followed his complaint to the EC: “Huge mob of BJP workers have entered booth no.s 6, 7, 49, 27, 162, 21, 26, 13, 262, 256, 163, 20. BJP workers attempting to take control of EVM & rigging the booth.”

Till 1 p.m. the voter turnout: in Bankura district was 57.86 per cent, Paschim Medinipur 59.32, Purba Medinipur 60.32 and South 24 Parganas 36.43 per cent, according to the Election Commission’s voter turnout App.

Voting began at 7 a.m. Many, including the first-time voters, reached polling stations hours before the voting began. Of the 171 candidates in the fray — 152 male, 19 female. Polling will continue till 6 p.m.

The Election Commission is on its toes to check any further violence. It has also started air surveillance in many areas with the help of a helicopter. People who are not voters of Nandigram are reportedly not being allowed to enter the constituency in view of the sensitivity. The commission has also deployed a 22-personnel quick response teams (QRTs).

Of the 75,94,549 voters — 38,80,955 men and 37,13,508 women who will cast their votes across 10,620 polling stations.

Nearly 700 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies have been deployed in all the districts to ensure a completely peaceful and fearless environment for polling.

The entire Nandigram has been placed under Section 144 of the CrPC.

Banerjee is seeking a third term in office from Nandigram Assembly constituency of Purba Medinipur district.

For her and the BJP the battle for Nandigram is a prestige fight because it was the 2007 agitation against land acquisition in the region which catapulted her to the Chief Minister’s post and to the centre stage of politics in the state, paving the way for the Trinamool’s victory in the 2011 Assembly polls that ended 34 years of Left Front rule.

In the high stakes poll battle this time, a victory is a must for Banerjee so that she can lead the government and keep together her party, which is faced with exodus.

For Adhikari, it is a battle for political survival as a defeat would be a devastating blow and might also put a question mark on his political graph in his new party. the BJP.

A victory would not only establish him as one of the tallest leaders in West Bengal but would also push him a few miles ahead of others in the Chief Ministerial race in case the BJP is voted to power.

Covid-19 protocols for the voters, including social distancing and thermal screening are being maintained.

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