Sporadic violence mars fifth phase, 78.09 per cent polling till 5 PM

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(Eds: With latest inputs) Kolkata, Apr 17 (PTI) West Bengal recorded over 78 per cent turnout in the fifth phase of its assembly poll amidst incidents of violence and attack on a candidate on Saturday after the bloodshed in the previous round of election.

An EC offficial said around 78.09 per cent of the 1.13 crore voters exercised their franchise till 5 pm in 45 seats spread across North 24 Parganas, Purba Bardhaman and Nadia districts in south Bengal and Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the north.

The highest 81.73 per cent votes were cast in Jalpaiguri district, followed by Purba Bardhaman (81.72 per cent), Nadia (81.57 per cent), North 24 Parganas (74.83 per cent), Darjeeling (74.31 per cent) and Kalimpong (69.56 per cent), he added.

'By and large polling has been peaceful in Bengal today barring a few incidents of violence,' the official said.

The security personnel maintained a tight vigil and addressed a few incidents that were reported, an official at the election office said.

There were allegations by villagers that the central forces had opened fire to disburse a crowd near a polling booth at Kurulgacha area in Deganga constituency in North 24 Parganas district. The central forces, however, denied the allegations.

'There was no incident of firing anywhere in Deganga,' a central force officer said.

The office of the chief electoral officer has sought a report from the observer, an official said.

'We have received video footage from the media regarding central forces opening fire while disbursing a group of villagers who had gathered near a booth in Deganga's Kurulgacha. We have sought a report from the observer,' the official said.

Clashes between central forces and TMC supporters were also reported in Haroa area of the constituency.

BJP state vice-president and Kamarhati candidate Raju Banerjee was attacked by alleged TMC supporters in his constituency.

Banerjee claimed that bricks were hurled at his car and he was injured in his finger.

The TMC has denied allegations.

In Shantinagar area of Bidhannagar, a clash broke out between TMC and BJP supporters with both sides accusing each other of stopping the voters from going to the polling booths.

Bricks and stones were hurled injuring eight people, officials said adding a huge contingent of central forces was rushed to the spot to control the situation, they said.

TMC MLA Sujit Bose and BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta visited the spot to take stock of the situation.

In Baranagar BJP candidate Parno Mitra was gheraoed allegedly by TMC activists when she was touring the constituency.

The TMC has denied the allegations and claimed that she was trying to influence the voters on polling day.

Mitra claimed that TMC activists misbehaved with her, following which she lodged a complaint with the EC.

At Santipur in Nadia district the TMC alleged that personnel of the central forces were asking voters to return, a charge rubbished by the authorities.

The party had also claimed that a polling booth in Bardhaman Uttar constituency was captured by BJP. The allegation was denied by the saffron party and poll officials said that no such incident had taken place.

The police and central forces had to resort to lathicharge to disperse TMC and BJP activists, who clashed over voters being allegedly not allowed to go to the booths in Kalyani.

A BJP worker was critically injured after bombs were thrown at him allegedly by TMC activists while he was returning home after casting his vote in Gayeshpur constituency.

The TMC denied the allegation and a large contingent of central forces was sent to the area to control the situation.

The locals along with BJP supporters later ransacked the house of the TMC supporters.

At Bijpur in North 24 Parganas, TMC and BJP supporters clashed after the saffron party alleged that voters were being prevented from going to the booths.

The BJP also alleged that some of its booth agents in Minakhan constituency in the same district were kidnapped by the TMC.

The voters alleged they were not allowed to go to the polling stations in the afternoon. Later on a large contiingent of central forces rushed to the spot and ensured peaceful polling.

The TMC said BJP does not have enough strength to depute agents in all the booths, the reason why it was levelling such 'baseless' allegations.

A total of 1,13,47,344 people are eligible to vote. Of them 57,35,766 are men, 56,11,354 women and 224 are from the third gender.

At many places voters were seen without masks despite the resurgent coronavirus, raising concerns. The central force personnel ensured social distancing at the booths, while election officials provided masks, hand sanitiser and polythene gloves to the voters.

The polling started at 7 am and continued till 6.30 pm in 15,789 stations across the six districts.

The EC deployed 853 companies of central forces in this phase. Each company of central force has around 100 personnel including officers. PTI SCH PNT KK KK KK