Four killed as third phase of Bengal polls ends (Second Lead)

May 19th, 2008 - 8:37 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Kolkata, May 18 (IANS) At least four political activists were killed in a clash in Murshidabad and around 145 people were arrested across West Bengal as the third and final phase of the local body elections concluded Sunday. The voting for panchayat election took place at about 15,000 polling booths in seven districts - Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Murshidabad, South Dinajpur, North Dinajpur and Cooch Behar. In all, there were a total of 11.6 million eligible voters in these districts.

According to state election commission officials, around 50 percent votes were cast till 5.30 p.m.

While two activists of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and two of the main opposition Congress were killed in a clash Sunday noon in Murshidabad, a number of activists suffered injuries.

“We have arrested 111 people, including Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and Congress supporters, from Murshidabad and 34 people from other districts,” West Bengal Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

“No major violence has been reported throughout the polls. There was political tension at Murshidabad and Malda. But everything is under control now,” he said.

There were clashes between CPI-M and Congress workers at Malda in the morning. Violence and lobbing of crude bombs were reported from Raninagar and Domkal areas of Murshidabad.

Police said minor clashes were reported between CPI-M and Trinamul Congress workers at Saithiya and Nanur areas of Birbhum and between CPI-M and Congress activists in Ghoramara area of Murshidabad.

The third phase of poll includes 13,120 gram panchayats, 2,751 panchayat samitis and 236 zila parishads with over 11.6 million eligible voters.

Malda and Murshidabad are significant districts as they are the only two district council in West Bengal where the Congress is in power. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had visited the two districts April 28 to campaign for her party.

Five of the six Congress MPs elected from West Bengal, including Adhir Chowdhury, Mannan Hussain and Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury, are from these two districts.

Also, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was elected from Jangipur constituency in Murshidabad.

The CPI-M also expected a tough fight with the Congress at North Dinajpur - the constituency of Information and Broadcasting Minister and state Congress president Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi.

Also, re-polling was held at 15 booths at Basanti in South 24 Parganas where ballotting was countermanded following reports of rigging during Wednesday’s second phase elections.

The first two phases of the panchayat polls in 17 out of 18 West Bengal districts were held May 11 and May 14. Counting of votes is scheduled for May 21.

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