Sporadic incidents of violence marred the sixth phase of the West Bengal Assembly election on Thursday, where voting was held across 43 seats.
Elections, which began at 7 am, were held for 43 Assembly seats: 17 in North 24 Parganas district, nine each in Nadia and Uttar Dinajpur, and eight in Purba Bardhaman.
Matuas make for a large chunk of the state's scheduled caste population. With an estimated three million members, the community influences the outcome in 30-40 assembly seats in Nadia, North and South 24 Parganas districts.
Voter turnout in West Bengal climbed up to 79.09 percent at 5 pm on Thursday, as per data put out by the Election Commission of India.
This figure is likely to increase.
Of the four districts that went to the polls Thursday, Nadia registered the highest voter turnout of 82.67 percent, followed by Purba Bardhaman (82.15 percent), Uttar Dinajpur (77.76 percent), and North 24 Parganas (75.94 percent).
The counting of votes will be held on 2 May.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said he will skip his visit to poll-bound West Bengal on Friday as he would be chairing a high-level meeting on the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attacked Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday. At a rally, she said the state "cannot surrender to two goons of Delhi".
Meanwhile, Amit Shah during a rally accused Banerjee of having no other agenda apart from hurling abuses at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and him.
"She dedicates 10 minutes of her speech in every election rally to abusing the PM and myself... I am the country's home minister, can't I talk to people? How am I an outsider?" he said at a public meeting in Harirampur constituency in Dakshin Dinajpur district, which goes to polls in the seventh phase on 26 April.
On the other hand, Election Commission denied Trinamool Congress' request to club the remaining phases of voting in view of the coronavirus situation, saying that it was not feasible since polls were planned well in advance. However, the Election Commission said it will ensure that coronavirus-related safety rules are followed during the voting.
Sporadic incidents of violence reported
At Bagda in North 24 Parganas, a mob of about 250 people attacked security personnel outside a booth. A huge police contingent was rushed to the spot to control the situation, the police said.
Police had to fire three rounds to disperse the mob and a person was injured. The officer in charge of Bagda police station and a constable were injured in the attack.
The EC has sought a report on the incident, which brought back memories of the fourth phase of polls held on April 10 when four persons were killed after CISF personnel opened fire in "self defence" outside a booth in Cooch Behar district's Sitalkuchi area.
In another incident in neighbouring Ashoknagar clashes broke out in the area between rivals TMC and BJP activists during which bombs were hurled, police said adding that unidentified people vandalised one vehicle carrying the central forces.
The TMC alleged that two of its activists were injured in firing allegedly by the central forces outside booth number 79 in Ashoknagar's Tangra area after a few party members protested against BJP candidate Tanuja Chakraborty's visit to the area.
"Two of my party colleagues are injured after bullets fired by central forces personnel hit them in their legs. Both are undergoing treatment in a nearby hospital," TMC candidate Narayan Goswami alleged.
The EC, which had sought a report from the officials posted in the district, later dismissed the allegations.
"There was no incident of any firing by the central forces. We have got no such report. This is a baseless allegation," a senior EC official told PTI.
In Ketugram assembly constituency in Purba Bardhaman, BJP candidate Mathura Ghosh was attacked by alleged TMC activists outside a polling booth. His vehicle was vandalised.
The TMC dubbed the allegations as baseless.
Clashes erupt between TMC, BJP workers
At Chopra in Uttar Dinajpur shots were reportedly fired after clashes broke out between activists of the TMC and BJP over allegations of heckling by agents of a polling booth.
Both the parties denied having used any firearm and blamed the opposition for the violence.
The office of the chief electoral officer has sought a report on the incident from the local administration.
In Raiganj, sources in the TMC said one of its activists sustained serious injuries after BJP workers allegedly stabbed him. The saffron party has, however, denied the allegations.
Sporadic violence was also reported from the Bijpur constituency in North 24 Parganas, where TMC and BJP supporters clashed outside polling booths. Both the parties accused each other of trying to rig votes.
Two supporters of TMC and three of BJP were reportedly injured in the clashes and a huge contingent of security forces was rushed to the troubled areas to control the situation.
At Halisahar area of Naihati constituency, the saffron party alleged that bombs were hurled at the residence of a local BJP leader, whose mother and younger brother are known to have suffered injuries. The TMC and the BJP traded charges against each other for the incident.
In a separate incident in the area, a TMC worker was injured after unidentified miscreants attacked him with sharp weapons.
A number of cases were reported from North 24 Parganas district. In Titagarh area of Barrackpore constituency in North 24 Parganas district too clashes broke out between TMC and BJP supporters. The two sides hurled bombs at each other leading to severe injuries to five BJP activists.
The injured have been admitted to a nearby hospital, official sources said.
TMC candidate Raj Chakraborty gheraoed
Film director-turned-TMC candidate Raj Chakraborty was gheraoed in the Barrackpore constituency by BJP supporters, who accused him of influencing voters. Chakraborty denied the allegations.
TMC supporters had a verbal duel with the central forces in Habra constituency when its TMC candidate and state minister Jyotipriyo Mullick visited a polling booth in the area.
In the Dum Dum Uttar constituency, a scuffle broke out between the TMC and BJP supporters when the ruling party opposed the visit of the saffron party candidate Archana Majumdar to the polling stations.
In the Amdanga constituency, country-made crude bombs were recovered by police personnel.
Prominent names in the sixth phase of the polls include BJP's national vice president Mukul Roy (Krishnanagar North), TMC ministers Jyotipriyo Mallick (Habra), and Chandrima Bhattacharya, and CPM leader Tanmay Bhattacharya (Dum Dum Uttar).
The political fate of film director Raj Chakraborty and actor Koushani Mukherjee, who are the TMC's candidates from the Barrackpore and the Krishnanagar North constituencies respectively, will also be decided in this phase of the election.
Over 1.03 crore voters are set to decide the political fate of 306 candidates in this phase. As many as 1,071 companies of central forces have been deployed to ensure free and fair polling, officials said.
With inputs from PTI