51.6 Per Cent Votes Cast In WB In First 4 Hours

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Darjeeling: Around 51.6 per cent votes were cast in the first four hours in the three Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal, where polling is on under way in the second phase Thursday marred by incidents of violence in some areas, officials said.

An EC official said here that around 47.52 per cent polling was recorded in Darjeeling, 54.73 per cent in Jalpaiguri (SC) and 52.54 per cent in Raiganj seat, which reported the maximum incidents of violence from Chopra and Islampur areas.

Special Police Observer Vivek Dubey, however, described the voting as “more or less peaceful” with a few isolated incidents reported from places in the three constituencies.

“Small incidents will always occur but there is no big incident,” he told reporters.

A reporter and a camera person of a local news channel were allegedly manhandled when they went to cover polling at Kataphulbari in the Raiganj constituency.

Voters of Chopra under the same constituency reportedly put up a road blockade in protest against the absence of central forces at the polling stations, the official said.

Police fired in the air and burst tear gas shells to control a mob, who throw stones at them. Bombs were also hurled by unknown miscreants in Chopra, a senior EC official in the district said.

At least three persons were detained by police in this connection, he said. “Our officials are there with state police officers to control the situation. We are talking to the voters to urge them to cast their ballots without any fear. We have assured them of total protection,” the official said.

“We are scared for our lives … We have no confidence in the state police and want immediate deployment of central forces here,” a voter of Hemtabad (SC) assembly segment under the Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, said.

Meanwhile, CPI(M) candidate from Raiganj, Md Salim claimed that his car was attacked by unknown persons when he went to a polling booth at Islampur.

“I got to know of rigging inside the booth. After I reached the polling station, some people attacked my car.

Though I am unhurt, the vehicle has been damaged. I believe the ruling TMC is behind the incident,” Salim alleged.

The EC removed presiding officer of a booth at Kalimpong govt junior school where Jan Andolan Party (JAP) President Harka Bahadur Chettri was seen casting his vote while talking over his mobile phone.

“I had no knowledge that mobile phones were not allowed inside and nobody even told me about it. That’s why I entered the booth while talking over the phone. Had I known I would have deposited the phone to the security officers before entering,” Chettri said.

The EC has deployed 194 companies of central forces to cover 80 per cent of the over 5,000 booths in the three Lok Sabha seats.

The Commission has also appointed former Bihar Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ajay V Nayak as special observer for West Bengal, while retired IPS officer Vivek Dubey has been sent to the state as special police observer. He is looking into the developements since morning.