West Bengal votes amid sporadic clashes (Second Lead)

May 13th, 2009 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 13 (IANS) Sporadic political clashes left two persons injured in the final phase of Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal Wednesday even as people turned out in large numbers to vote in 11 constituencies.
Polling was deferred in some areas because of malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs). Poll-related violence had left one person dead Tuesday night.

The fate of 100 candidates, including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and eight other women, is being decided in this phase. Over 13.8 million people were eligible to vote across 17,136 polling booths.

“Till 2.30 p.m., about 57 percent of people have voted,” an officer on duty at the election control room here told IANS Wednesday.

The third and final phase covered Kolkata and its two adjoining districts of South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.

Eyeing a sixth straight win, Trinamool’s Banerjee was in the fray from Kolkata South constituency against old foe Rabin Deb of the state’s ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). In the 2004 election, Left Front major CPI-M had won 10 of the 11 seats, with Banerjee retaining Kolkata South.

Wednesday’s polls saw political rivals trading allegations of rigging and booth capturing while two candidates said they were heckled by rival party workers.

In the metropolis, where all the booths had been declared sensitive, paramilitary personnel stood guard at all voting stations.

Among the prominent voters were union External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo members Brinda Karat and Biman Bose.

On Tuesday night, Khejar Ali, said to be a Trinamool Congress activist, was killed in Rajarhat on the outskirts of the city during a violent clash with ruling CPI-M workers during which bombs were flung, said state Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia.

However, there were no major incidents Wednesday, except for Bhangar under Jadavpur seat where two people were injured in a clash between the two parties, police said.

Reports of clashes poured in from the districts, but the incidents were minor in nature.

There was a bomb scare at the Garifa High School booth in Barrackpore constituency of North 24 Parganas. Bomb disposal squad officers, however, did not find any explosives.

Five outsiders were arrested from Salt Lake area under Barasat Lok Sabha constituency amidst allegations that they had come to foment trouble.

Polling could not begin in 101 booths of Mandirbazar Assembly segment under Mathurapur Lok Sabha constituency in South 24 Parganas district as the EVMs, which were wet due to Tuesday’s rains, did not function.

“We have recommended that polling be held in these booths Thursday. The final decision will be taken by the Election Commission officials in Delhi,” state’s joint electoral officer Nikhil Kumar Sahana told IANS.

According to sources, some incidents of EVMs malfunctioning were also reported at No.69 polling booth in Jainagar constituency of South 24 Parganas. Some technical snags were reported at a few polling stations of Kumartuli area of Kolkata North constituency.

Trinamool Congress nominee from Kolkata North seat Sudip Bandopadhyay got involved in an altercation with CPI-M activists in a booth, but police intervened to defuse the situation.

Forward Bloc candidate from Barasat, Sudin Chattopadhyay, alleged he was heckled, his car damaged and his personal security guard beaten up by Trinamool Congress supporters in one of the booths.

Of West Bengal’s 42 seats, 14 went to the polls April 30 and 17 voted May 7. Votes will be counted May 16.

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