West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday sought the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah after four people died in clashes at a booth in Sitalkuchi constituency, Cooch Behar district. The Election Commission has adjourned polling at the booth.
The Trinamool Congress has written to the poll body claiming that the four people were killed in the constituency after central forces opened fire. The party sought the poll body’s intervention into the matter.
Close to 76.16% turnout was recorded till 6.20 pm in the fourth phase of state elections in West Bengal, as 44 seats went to polls on Saturday.
Voting began at 7 am in all constituencies. The seats are spread across five districts of Howrah, South 24 Parganas, Hooghly, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar. Over 1.15 crore voters will decide the fate of 373 candidates fielded in Saturday’s round of polling.
Here are the top developments of the day.
8.25 pm: A voter turnout of 76.16% was recorded till 5 pm in the fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly polls.
7.20 pm: The chief minister also reiterates her demand for the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah after the firing incident. She wonders on whose “direct interference into the functioning of the Election Commission and central forces” led to the excesses.
7.16 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says her government will initiate a Crime Investigation Department probe after death of four persons in Cooch Behar district, reports PTI. She also questions the central security forces’ version of firing on voters in self-defence.
“Who was injured on their part,” she asks. “Is there any footage? After killing those people, they were supporting the act. A CID probe will be initiated to find out the circumstances behind the incident.”
6.26 pm: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee holds a press conference on the Cooch Behar clashes, reports NDTV. “Everyday the prime minister [Narendra Modi] and the home minister [Amit Shah] are threatening us,” Banerjee says. “Law and order is a state subject. Why will the police report the central government?”
6.20 pm: A voter turnout of 76.16% has been recorded as of 6.20 pm, shows the Election Commission’s voter turnout app.
6.14 pm: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says she will go to Mathabhanga hospital in Cooch Behar district on Sunday in the morning after clashes broke out at Sitalkuchi constituency, reports ANI. Banerjee says she could not go there on Friday as Model Code of Conduct was in place in view of the polling.
6.10 pm: A Bharatiya Janata Party delegation meets Election Commission officials after five people died in two separate incidents in Sitalkuchi, reports ANI. “In my opinion, these incidents happened because of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s old statement calling for gherao of central forces,” says BJP MP Jyotirmay Singh Mahato.
6.07 pm: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says that it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s responsibility to meet the families of the people who died in the Cooch Behar clashes but he was instead giving clean chit on the matter, reports ANI. “Isn’t he ashamed?” she asks.
5.08 pm: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claims that the firing incident in Cooch Behar was pre-planned and demands an inquiry into the matter, reports ANI.
5.05 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee holds Union Home Minister Amit Shah responsible for the killing of four men in Cooch Behar clashes and says he is a conspirator in the incident, reports ANI. “I don’t blame central forces because they work under Home Minister’s order,” she adds.
4.28 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeks the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah after the Trinamool Congress claimed that central forces killed four people in firing by at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar, reports PTI. Banerjee says her party would hold protest rallies throughout the state on Sunday and asks TMC activists to wear black badges and demonstrate peacefully from 2 pm to 4 pm.
4.22 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was now abusing Election Commission, Central Armed Police Forces, Electronic Voting Machines as well as her own party’s polling agents, reports ANI.
“She is so desperate that she is defaming Bengal’s voters,” he says. “Didi, o Didi! [referring to Banerjee] People of Bengal don’t expect you to have sensitivity any more.”
4.16 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says at a rally in Krishnanagar city of Nadia district that central forces carry out voting in an impartial manner, reports The Times of India. Modi adds that the problem is not with the central forces but the violent politics in the state. He was referring to reports of central forces allegedly killing four men during polling in the Cooch Behar district.
4.12 pm: Communist Party of India General Secretary Sitaram Yechury calls the alleged firing on voters in the Sitalkuchi constituency of Cooch Behar district “outrageous”. “Totally condemnable,” he tweets. “EC [Election Commission] must order a high powered enquiry under judicial supervision & punish the guilty. Deepest condolences to the bereaved families.”
4.05 pm: The Trinmaool Congress writes to the Election Commission over the “cold-blooded murder of four and brutal injury of three innocent people by central forces.”
4.02 pm: A voter turnout of 66.76% has been recorded as of 4 pm, shows the Election Commission’s voter turnout app.
2.56 pm: Deputy Inspector General of Police, Jalpaiguri Range, tells ANI: “Polling has been stopped at polling station number 126 of Sitalkuchi Assembly Constituency, Cooch Behar; further investigation is under way.”
2.35 pm: 52.89% voter turnout has been recorded as of 2.35 pm, shows the Election Commission’s voter turnout app.
2.17 pm: The Central Reserve Police Force has claimed that it was not involved in the poll violence in Cooch Behar, reports The Indian Express. “Regarding recent incident being reported in media about killing of four civilians outside booth 126, Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi Assembly Constituency, Cooch Behar, it is clarified that CRPF component was neither deployed at the said booth nor involved in the incident in any way.”
2.13 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi express grief about the firing incident in Cooch Behar, reports PTI. “What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad,” he says during a rally in Siliguri. “I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident. Mamata Didi and her TMC goons have become jittery because of ground swell of support for BJP.”
2.09 pm: “The names of those killed are Hamidul Haq, Haminul Haq, Manirul Haq, Noor Alam,” says Roy.
2.08 pm: Roy says Mamata Banerjee will visit the homes of all those killed, reports ANI.
2.05 pm: In a press conference, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy alleges: “Why did the Central Armed Police Forces fire? Where do they get this audacity of firing on common voters? That is the main question. This is a part of a conspiracy and we do not think that the prime minister is out of this conspiracy. This is an effort to intimidate voters.”
1.57 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to hold a protest rally in Cooch Behar district on Sunday against the firing incident in which five people allegedly died, reports ANI.
1.16 pm: Election Commission adjourns voting in booth number 125 of Sitalkuchi constituency, following reports of five people being killed in firing by central security forces. The poll body took the decision based on interim report from special observers, reports ANI. It has sought a detailed report from them and the chief electoral officer by 5 pm today.
1.13 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleges “conspiracy” on part of the central security forces, following an incident in Cooch Behar where five people were reportedly killed in firing, reports ANI.
“CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] have killed voters standing in the queue, where do they get so much of audacity?” says Banerjee at an election rally. “BJP knows that they have lost so they are killing voters and workers.”
12.50 pm: Trinamool Congress will hold a press conference on the firing in Cooch Behar at 1 pm, party MP Derek O’ Brien says in a tweet. A delegation of the party will also meet Election Commission officials at 3 pm.
12.48 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that the firing incident in Cooch Behar is “saddening”, reports ANI.
“My sympathies are with the families of those who died, I condole their demise,” Modi says, at an election rally in Siliguri. “Didi and her goons are perturbed, seeing the people’s support for BJP. She has stooped to this level as she can see her chair slipping away.”
12.07 pm: Trinamool Congress claims that five of its workers have been killed in firing by the central forces in Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency in Cooch Behar district. The party has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission seeking its intervention.
The incident reportedly took place after a clash broke out between TMC and Bharatiya Janata Party supporters, following which the security personnel opened fire, PTI reports quoting police sources. However, PTI puts the toll at four, and does not mention their political affiliation.
11.27 am: Nearly 34% (33.98%) voting has been recorded in the 44 seats across five districts, according to Election Commission data.
11.15 am: A first-time voter dies in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district after being shot outside a polling booth, reports PTI. The person, who has been identified as Anand Burman, was dragged outside polling booth number 85 in Pathantuli area of Sitalkuchi while voting was underway and shot dead, says a police officer.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamool Congress have blamed each other for the incident. The Election Commission has sought report from officials, while the police and Rapid Action Force personnels have been deployed in the area.
11.05 am: Bharatiya Janata Party MP and its candidate from Hooghly’s Chunchura constituency Locket Chatterjee demands more deployment of central force at a polling booth, alleging that her car was attacked by locals, reports ANI.
“People were rigging votes in booth number 66 when I caught them red-handed,” she says. “Then my car was attacked and many mediapersons are still stuck in the booth.”
Visuals also show that people attacked Chatterjee’s car during the fourth phase of elections.
9.50 am: Nearly 16% (15.85%) turnout recorded across all 44 seats in West Bengal. Here is the district-wise breakup, according to official data from the Election Commission:
8.17 am: Union minister and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Tollyganj seat Babul Supriyo says the biggest challenge is to remove West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress from West Bengal, reports ANI.
“Aroop Biswas [Supriyo’s TMC trival in Tollyganj] has been the right hand of all her [Banerjee] works,” says the Union minister. “So it is a challenge to change the atmosphere of terror here.”
8.14 am: Trinamool Congress writes to Election Commission accusing Bharatiya Janata Party “goons” of preventing their agents from entering several booths in Sitalkuchi, Natalbari, Tufanganj and Dinhata constituencies, reports ANI.
All four constitituencies in Cooch Behar district are polling in the fourth phase on Saturday.
7.49 am: Hours before the fourth phase of polling began in Bengal, the Election Commission warned parties from holding massive campaign rallies. This comes amid a second wave of coronavirus cases in the country, and after several rallies have been held by BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as Opposition leaders.
“Instances of election meetings/campaigns have come to the notice of the Commission, where norms of social distancing, wearing of masks etc. have been flouted in disregard to the Commission’s [...] guidelines,” NDTV quoted the EC’s notice as saying. “By doing so, the political parties and candidates are exposing themselves as well as the public attending such election meetings to the grave danger of infection.”
It added, ““The Commission, in cases of breach, will not hesitate in banning public meetings, rallies etc of the defaulting candidates/star campaigners/political leaders without any further reference.”
7.30 am: Union Minister Babul Supriyo is contesting the Tollyganj seat today, while two other Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Locket Chatterjee and Nisith Pramanik are in the running from Chunchura and Dinhata seats.
Minister in the Trinamool Congress-led state government, Arup Biswas is up against Supriyo, while state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee is fighting the Behala West seat to return to the Assembly for the fourth successive term. Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Mohammed Salim is contesting the Chanditala constituency.
7.22 am: Voting begins for the fourth phase of elections in West Bengal, reports ANI.
7.21 am: The Election Commission has deployed 793 companies of Central armed security forces for 44 seats in the fourth phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal, reports The Hindu.