Bengal 3rd phase polling peaceful barring stray violence; nearly 74 pc turnout till 5 pm

People wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling station during the 3rd phase of Lok Sabha polls, in Malda district, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.
People wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling station during the 3rd phase of Lok Sabha polls, in Malda district, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Kolkata | The third phase of Lok Sabha polls in Bengal's four parliamentary constituencies was peaceful barring a few incidents of violence, with a voter turnout of nearly 74 per cent recorded till 5 pm, officials said.

The TMC, the BJP, and the Congress-CPI(M) alliance lodged separate complaints related to poll violence, voter intimidation, and assaults on poll agents in the first few hours of polling, sources in the parties said.

The EC received 433 complaints till 5 PM, most of which were from Murshidabad and Jangipur constituencies.

According to officials, around 73.93 per cent, polling was reported till 5 pm, with Jangipur recording 72.13 per cent, followed by Maldaha Dakshin (73.68), Murshidabad (76.49) and Maldaha Uttar (73.30).

Besides, 73.68 per cent of voting was recorded in the assembly by-poll in Murshidabad's Bhagawangola.

Voting commenced at 7 am and concluded at 6 pm.

Sources suggest the turnout may increase as long queues were observed outside polling booths at 6 pm.

All four seats are minority-dominated, with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) holding Murshidabad and Jangipur, while the BJP has Maldaha North, and Maldaha South is represented by the Congress.

In the Murshidabad seat, Left-Congress combine candidate Mohammed Salim claimed that he caught hold of a "fake booth agent" in the Rabinagar area of the constituency.

In that area, Salim was greeted with "go back" slogans as he tried to enter a booth following allegations of CPI(M) booth agents being heckled by alleged TMC goons.

"The TMC has unleashed a reign of terror in the entire constituency. Strict action must be taken by the Election Commission," Salim said.

Salim was seen shuttling from one booth to another as allegations of intimidation of voters surfaced in the area.

TMC spokesperson Riju Dutta, however, said, "The goons of CPI(M) and Congress tried to intimidate the voters. There has been resistance from the masses."

In the Karimpur area of the seat, clashes were reported between the TMC and the CPI(M) supporters outside a few booths. Clashes were also reported between the TMC and the Congress activists from the Domkol area.

In the Jangipur area, BJP candidate Dhanajoy Ghosh faced protests by TMC cadres as he tried to enter some of the booths in the constituency.

A scuffle broke out between Ghosh and TMC block president Goutam Ghosh with the former alleging the latter was intimidating voters outside a polling station.

"If such hooliganism continues, there could be a rerun of Cooch Behar's Sitalkuchi incident," he said.

Ghosh was referring to the Sitalkuchi firing incident in the 2021 assembly polls when four people were killed after central forces opened fire to control a mob near a booth.

The TMC has complained to the EC against Ghosh, accusing him of intimidating voters.

"@BJP4India's thirst for violence never ends! Their MP candidate from Jangipur, Dhananjay Ghosh, stormed in with CRPF thugs and harassed our Block President. @ECISVEEP, when will you grow a spine and stand against this hooliganism?" the AITC posted on X.

In the Englishbazar area in Maldaha Dakshin seat, the BJP accused the TMC of beating up their booth agents, similar complaints were lodged by the Congress against the state's ruling party from the Ratua area in Malda.

The BJP nominee of the constituency, Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury, was seen engaged in arguments with TMC workers at several booths.

In some areas, TMC workers staged protests following allegations that central forces were assisting BJP workers in intimidating voters at some booths in the Maldaha North constituency.

The state BJP remains hopeful of retaining the Maldaha North seat and winning the remaining three seats and expressed satisfaction with the overall voting process.

“The TMC attempted to manipulate voters. However, they seem to have fallen short. We remain optimistic after the voter turnout in all the four seats,” said BJP spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.

TMC spokesperson Santanu Sen said, “Despite threats by the opposition BJP, Congress and the Left, the electorate has been able to cast their vote.”

“We are confident of winning all the four Lok Sabha seats,” he said.

Altogether 73,37,651 voters, including 36,12,395 women and 154 belonging to the third gender, are eligible to exercise their franchise. Voting began at 7 am and will continue until 6 pm.

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