Siliguri: Over 33 percent of the electorate cast their votes in the three northern West Bengal constituencies in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday, amid several incidents of violence including an attack on a CPI-M candidate and smashing of an EVM.
In the first four hours till 11 a.m., the overall polling percentage was 33.45, with Raiganj recording 34.01, Jalpaiguri 36.22 and Darjeeling 30.12 percent turnout, an Election Commission (EC) official said in Kolkata.
Voting across 5,390 polling stations began at 7 a.m. and will end at 6 p.m.
Much of the unrest was reported from Chopra under the Darjeeling constituency, where voters put up a road blockade demanding that CRPF personnel should be deployed in all polling stations to ensure their security.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Darjeeling seat in 2009 and 2014.
The villagers complained of intimidation by ruling Trinamool Congress-backed goons and refused to cast their votes under the supervision of state police personnel accusing them of being partisan.
As BJP and Trinamool activists clashed, the Rapid Action Force personnel lobbed tear gas shells to control the situation.
The workers of the two parties also clashed inside the polling booth at Chopra’s Kotgach, where the Electronic Voting Machine was smashed.
The vehicle of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) sitting MP from Raiganj Mohammad Salim, who is seeking a re-election, was damaged at Islampur when he visited the area on receiving reports of booth capturing. Salim alleged that the police were “mute spectators” during the attack.
Tea garden workers were among those who turned out in strength in the Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri constituencies, while Muslim community members were seen in good numbers in Raiganj seat.
In Jalpaiguri, there were reports of disruption in a few booths due to faulty EVMs.
There are a total of 49,32,346 eligible voters — 25,22,887 men, 24,09,372 women and 87 in the ‘other’ category — and 42 candidates in this phase.
In 2014, the Trinamool Congress had won Jalpaiguri, the CPI-M bagged Raiganj while the BJP secured Darjeeling.
The star constituency is Raiganj in North Dinajpur district, where Salim is taking on former Union Minister and Congress nominee Deepa Dasmunsi, BJP state General Secretary Debasree Chaudhuri and Trinamool candidate Kanaia Lal Agarwal. Ten other candidates, including five Independents, are also in the fray.
In Darjeeling, BJP’s Raju Singh Bisht is against Trinamool’s Amar Singh Rai, Saman Pathak of CPI-M and Congress’ Sankar Malakar. There are also seven candidates from other registered parties and five Independents.
Trinamool has renominated its sitting MP Bijoy Chandra Barman in Jalpaiguri, where the BJP ticket has gone to a medico Jayanta Kumar Ray, the Congress has fielded tea workers’ leader Mani Kumar Darnal and the CPI-M Bhagirath Chandra Roy.
The subsequent phases of polls will be held on April 23, 29 and May 6, 12 and 19. Polling for the Cooch Behar and Alipurduar constituencies took place in the first phase on April 11.
The vote count is on May 23.
(With inputs from IANS)