Kolkata: Political violence left 24 injured as over two crore people — nearly 80 percent of the electorate — voted yesterday in 17 Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal in the general election’s final phase.
Dubbing the clashes “stray and isolated”, Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta termed the polls — the fifth phase in the state — “peaceful”.
“Till 6pm, 79.96 percent polling was recorded. People are still in queues and we expect the turnout to go up,” he said. However, the turnout for the 17 constituencies in 2009 stood higher at 82.07 percent. By-elections were also held in two assembly constituencies, Santipur and Chakdaha, in Nadia district.
The opposition parties accused the Trinamool Congress of unleashing violence to intimidate voters, and driving out their polling agents. The ruling party denied the allegations.
As many as 20 people were injured in clashes between activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and Trinamool in Haroa block, about 40km from Kolkata, police said. However, Gupta put the figure at 14. Some of the injured, reported to be CPM activists, accused the Trinamool of orchestrating the attack and said four of them received bullet injuries when they were going to a polling booth in Basirhat parliamentary constituency.
A police officer denied any bullet injuries, while the Trinamool claimed 11 of its activists were wounded. Later, 12 people were arrested. Special observer for the state Sudhir Kumar Rakesh toured several areas — where scuffles were reported — as part of the commission’s confidence building measure.
Putting the blazing sun to shame, Kolkata soaked in the poll carnival as senior citizens among others turned out in strength alongside a large number of enthusiastic first-time voters.
Among the political stalwarts, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cast their votes.
In several areas of the city, including Tangra, Bhowanipore and Tiljala, there were allegations of Trinamool activists distributing biryani to voters.