West Bengal votes amid sporadic clashes (Third Lead)

May 13th, 2009 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, May 13 (IANS) A 70 percent turnout was reported in 11 constituencies of West Bengal in the final phase of Lok Sabha elections Wednesday amid sporadic clashes that left five people injured and charges and counter-charges of rigging.
“As per the information received at 5 p.m., the polling percentage is 70. However, the number will go up as still there were people in queues,” state Chief Electoral Officer Debasish Sen told reporters here.

Sen said despite a few incidents, polling was overall peaceful. A car carrying polling personnel crushed a voter to death and injured three outside a booth in Kalyani, he said.

Polling was deferred in some areas because of malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs). Poll-related violence had left one person dead Tuesday night.

The final phase had 100 candidates, including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and eight other women. Over 13.8 million people were eligible to vote across 17,136 polling booths.

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

In the 2004 election, the Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had won 10 of these 11 seats, with Banerjee retaining Kolkata South.

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

Among the prominent voters were External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, state Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPI-M politburo members Brinda Karat and Biman Bose.

Late in the afternoon, miscreants hurled bombs in a couple of booths Beleghata area in Kolkata North constituency emptying queues.

On Tuesday night, Khejar Ali, said to be a Trinamool Congress activist, was killed in Rajarhat on the outskirts of the city in 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 untoward incidents Wednesday, except for Bhangar in Jadavpur constituency where four people were injured in a clash between the two parties, and Narayangarh in Jainagar constituency where CPI-M leader Jainal Mollah was seriously injured in an attack allegedly by Trinamool activists when he came out of a booth after voting.

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.

In Basirhat a presiding officer was removed for allegedly trying to influence voters.

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 the Mandirbazar assembly segment of Mathurapur Lok Sabha constituency in South 24 Parganas district as the EVMs, which were wet after Tuesday’s rains, did not function.

Repolling will be held in these booths Thursday, Sen said.

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

The Forward Bloc candidate from Barasat, Sudin Chattopadhyay, alleged he was heckled, his car damaged and his personal security guard beaten up by Trinamool supporters near a booth.

State CPI-M secretary Biman Bose said despite three-four sporadic incidents polling was peaceful and congratulated people for upholding the democratic traditions of the state.

Banerjee, however, alleged that the chief minister had got several booths in his assembly segment of Jadavpur rigged with help of presiding officers. She said Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy was also attacked when he went to Gangulybagan area on receiving complaints of rigging.

“The CPI-M indulged in rigging and false voting wherever it could. But I think despite all their attempts, people will give them a befitting reply when the votes are counted,” she said.

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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