West Bengal on Wednesday witnessed sporadic instances of disruption and complaints as voting took place in 31 Assembly segments in the third phase of polling in the state, PTI reported. The state recorded a voter turnout of 77.68% till 7.45 pm, according to the Election Commission.
The controversy started first after electronic voting machines were found at the home of a local Trinamool Congress leader in Uluberia constituency. Three officials were suspended and the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded an independent investigation from the Election Commission.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien also wrote to the Election Commission, alleging that BJP workers attacked his party’s candidate from Arambagh, Sujata Mondal, at a polling booth in West Bengal, ANI reported.
The official Twitter handle of the Trinamool Congress shared a video clip, which shows Mondal being taken away from a dusty field as a group of men, shouting abuses, chase her with sticks. Two police personnel can also be spotted in the video, who are seen trying to stop the angry crowd from coming close to the TMC leader.
The TMC alleged that the group of men were BJP workers. “Petrifying visuals of BJP goons attacking TMC candidate Sujata Mondal, openly abusing her and threatening her with rods and sickles,” the party wrote on Twitter. “If they have the guts to do this to a female candidate, imagine what they can do to your daughters.”
In his letter to the Election Commission, O’ Brien said that the alleged assault took place at the Arandi-I booth number 263 Mahallapara. He said that one of Mondal’s security officer suffered injuries on his head and was in a critical state.
“You are called upon to apprehend the goons of BJP, ensure that no corrupt practices take place, ensure the safety of our workers/members, ensure that polls are conducted freely and fairly,” O’Brien said.
The TMC leader added that the Central Reserve Police Force personnel, who were on duty, did nothing to stop the assaulters. They “were silent spectators” of the incident, he wrote.
Later, the Trinamool Congress also tweeted a purported photograph of Mondal’s security officer sitting with a bandaged head at a hospital. There were splashes of blood on his shirt.
“The shamelessness of attacking a woman candidate like this is only possible for the BJP,” the TMC wrote, and urged the Election Commission to take urgent action in the matter.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mondal had accused the BJP of meddling with the elections in several constituencies that went to the polls in the third phase. “Situation is fine at many places but [it is] not okay where we [the TMC] are strong,” she told ANI.
She also alleged that the saffron party was capturing polling booths, and using violence against TMC workers. “At booth 45, [in Arambagh] people voted for TMC but it’s going to BJP,” she said as a way of explanation. “In Arandi-II, our workers were beaten.”
Mondal added that even the security forces were complicit in the alleged crime. “They’re telling people to vote for BJP,” the TMC leader alleged.
Hours later, a clash erupted between BJP and TMC supporters in Arambagh, reported ANI. West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee alleged that the central forces were intimidating TMC workers and influencing “many to vote in favour of one party”.
In the evening, O’Brien also wrote to West Bengal chief electoral officer alleging that a Central Reserve Police Force soldier in Hooghly district has perpetrated “gruesome sexual assault on a minor girl”.
“The sexual attack has the effect of terrorising the electorate of the constituency and transcends all notions of a free and fair election,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress turncoat and BJP candidate from Diamond Harbour seat, Dipak Haldar, claimed that his former party did not allow voters to come to polling stations. “TMC men are not allowing BJP supporters to come out and vote freely, and unfortunately, the central forces are mute spectators,” he claimed. The ruling party called the allegations baseless.
In Dhanekhali seat, state minister Asima Patra accused the central forces of high-handedness and alleged that voters were being stopped from coming to the polling stations by the BJP “goons”, an allegation dismissed by the saffron party.
In the Khanakhul Assembly segment in Hooghly, Trinamool candidate Najibul Karim was allegedly attacked by BJP supporters. Later, central forces rescued him from the area.
In Falta seat, a BJP candidate’s vehicle was attacked, according to PTI.
At least one person was injured when crude bombs were hurled at Canning Purba Assembly segment, The Hindu reported. Saukat Mollah, the TMC candidate, accused supporters of the Abbas Siddiqui-led Indian Secular Front for orchestrating the attack and blocked the roads leading to the polling booth.
Over 78.5 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 205 candidates in the third phase of polling.