Kolkata: Even as a Congress worker died outside a polling booth and reports of violence came in, West Bengal’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Aariz Aftab on Tuesday said the third-phase elections across five constituencies in the state were “peaceful”.
He said the Election Commission plans to ramp up the coverage of Central forces to 98 per cent in the next phase of polls, due April 29.
Amid deployments of 324 companies of Central security forces, covering over 92 per cent of the polling stations across the Balurghat, Malda North, Malda South, Jangipur and Murshidabad constituencies, about 79 per cent voting was recorded — till 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
In the third phase polls, a total of 80,23,846 people were eligible to vote in 8,528 polling stations to decide the fate of 61 candidates, six of whom are women.
“The third phase election in West Bengal was peaceful except for some incidents. There was around 92 per cent central force coverage and for the next phase, we are planning around 98 per cent CAPF (central armed police force) coverage,” he told reporters in the state capital.
West Bengal’s eight constituencies — Baharampur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat, Bardhaman East, Bardhaman-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur and Birbhum – will go to the hustings in the fourth phase of polls on April 29.
According to voters standing outside booth number 188 at Baligram Primary School in the Bhagwangola Assembly segment of Murshidadbad constituency, Trinamool Congress and Congress activists attacked each other with sticks and sickles and pelted each other with stones. A Trinamool panchayat member and a few Congress workers were injured.
“Four people were injured. One of them, Tiyarul Sheikh, 55, died. An FIR has been lodged by his daughter against six persons. Three of them have been already arrested,” he said.
Asked about the deceased person’s political connection, Aftab said: “The incident took place outside the polling station. A statement can be made only after a detailed investigation. We will have to see if it was poll-related.”
Additional Director General of police Siddhi Nath Gupta said. “The prime accused Lalu Sheikh is the deceased person’s nephew. However, this is not there in the FIR, but we are keeping all options open.”
He mentioned that a total of four FIRs have been filed in this phase and about 224 persons arrested as part of preventive measures, while there were 7 arrests in specific cases.
Aftab also mentioned that a reserved polling employee Babulal Murmu, who reported to Balurghat constituency, went to his temporary residence. “He passed away there and a post mortem has been done to find out what exactly happened,” he said.
Asked about steps taken against outsiders entering polling stations, Aftab said: “Immediate action has been taken, wherever such incidents were reported. In Ratua, the presiding officer was removed after we found outsiders entering the booths.”
The notification for the by-polls announced in assembly constituencies Nowda and Kandi has been “rescinded by the Commission and a fresh notification will follow”, he added.
However, a BJP delegation led by Jay Prakash Majumdar on Tuesday approached the CEO office with a complaint about violence in various booths and also sought removal of Additional Chief Electoral Officer Sanjay Basu.
“We have also filed an email complaint against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for today’s (Tuesday) speech,” Majumdar said.
Her statement can create communal tension and also she is sending a wrong message by making false allegations against Central forces, he said.