Violence in Bengal as 4th phase sees 64 per cent turnout

The Asian Age.

India, Politics

MP CM Kamal Nath faced a power cut at his polling booth in Chhindwara and voted using flash light of video camera.

A policeman lathicharges a miscreant after a clash during the voting for the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections in Durgapur, West Bengal, on Monday. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: Sporadic incidents of violence in West Bengal and Odisha, where a Congress worker was killed, and EVM glitches were reported in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha polls on Monday which saw an average of 64 per cent turnout in 72 seats across nine states.

The highlight of this round of polling was Mumbai, the country’s financial capital that is home to billionaires and celebrities. For the ruling BJP, this round was crucial, with voting beginning in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan —  Hindi heartland states won by the Congress in Assembly elections last year.

The polling percentage in the fourth phase was the highest in West Bengal (eight seats) at 76.66 per cent. Jammu and Kashmir recorded the lowest turnout with just 10.5 per cent votes polled. Polling in Kashmir was held for the lone Anantnag seat which is seeing balloting in three phases. On Monday, Kulgam district went to polls and voting was marred by a series of street clashes in which four protesters were injured in security forces’ pellet firing.

With the culmination of phase 4, voting process has been completed on all seats in Maharashtra (48 seats) and Odisha (21 seats).

In the Hindi heartland states, where the BJP had won 30 out of 32 seats in 2014, 67.73 per cent turnout was recorded in Rajasthan (13 seats), 58.56 per cent in Uttar Pradesh (13 seats) and 67.09 per cent in Madhya Pradesh (six seats), according to the Election Commission (EC).

The stakes are high for the BJP in this phase as it had won 56 of these 72 constituencies in the 2014 polls. About 12.79 crore people were eligible for voting in the fourth phase. With this round, polling has been completed in 374 seats out of 543 Lok Sabha seats.

Violence marred the first few hours of polling in West Bengal, where BJP candidate and Central minister Babul Supriyo’s vehicle was vandalised allegedly by TMC workers outside a polling station.

According to a senior election official, clashes broke out between supporters of rival parties in Nanoor, Rampurhat, Nalhati and Siuri areas of Birbhum seat, injuring several people on both two sides.

In Dubrajpur area of the constituency, voters allegedly engaged in a scuffle with the Central forces when they were barred from entering polling booths with mobile phones.

Security personnel reportedly opened fire in the air to control the mob, following which polling was stalled in the booths, the official said.

The state election office also received reports of violence from Jemua and Barabani areas of Bardhaman East constituency, he said.

An FIR was registered against Mr Supriyo for allegedly getting into an argument with polling officials, an election official said. The ruling Trinamul Congress and the BJP complained to the EC and accused each other of intimidating voters in the state, which has seen violence in all previous three phases despite stepped up Central forces’ deployment.

In Odisha, a Congress worker was stabbed to death in Balikuda-Erasama area of Jagatsinghpur seat while he was returning from a polling booth. Violence was also reported from other places in six parliamentary seats in the state, where the turnout was 68 per cent.

The murdered Congress worker, Lachman Behera, had recently quit the BJD to join the Congress, an official said.

Clashes between supporters of the ruling BJD and the BJP were reported  from Jajpur Kendrapara and Balasore Lok Sabha seats amid allegations of poll rigging. Technical glitches in EVMs delayed polling in 60 booths, but it resumed after the snags were rectified.

Maharashtra saw 58.23 per cent polling, Jharkhand ( three seats) recorded 63.39 per cent polling and Bihar (five seats) recorded 58.92 per cent turnout.

Billionaires and Bollywood stars lined up outside polling stations along with the common folks in Mumbai, where polling was held in six constituencies. Celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, the Khan troika of Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir, Deepika Padukone, Sachin Tendulkar along with his wife and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray cast their votes in Mumbai. Actors Priyanka Chopra, Rekha, Aamir and his wife

Kiran Rao were among the early voters.

In Uttar Pradesh, Opposition Samajwadi Party alleged that many EVMs malfunctioned and in Kannauj, from where SP chief Akhislesh Yadav’s wife and sitting MP Dimple Yadav is contesting, several party workers were prevented from coming out of their homes to vote.

In Bihar, voting was delayed due to EVM malfunctioning at three polling stations in Munger, two polling stations in Darbhanga and three polling stations in Begusarai, from where CPI’s Kanhaiya Kumar and Union Minister Giriraj Singh (BJP)  are contesting, official sources said.

In Madhya Pradesh, chief electoral officer V.L. Kantha Rao said that during a mock-poll, EVMs were replaced at 207 polling booths as some glitches were found. EVMs were also replaced at 106 polling booths after voting began.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath faced a power cut when he reached a polling booth in Shikhapur area of Chhindwara seat at around 8 am. He voted using flash lights of video cameras as power could be restored only after 30 minutes. Mr Nath’s son Nakul Nath was a Congress candidate on the seat.

Complaints of technical glitches in EVMs and VVPAT machines in some polling booths were addressed in Maharashtra, an election official said.

After the violence in West Bengal, a BJP delegation, including Union ministers Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Vijay Goel, met EC officials.

Mr Naqvi told reporters, “The ruling TMC workers have hijacked democracy in the state and are indulging in violence. They are being supported by the local machinery and we demand deployment of Central forces in all polling booths in the state.”

The party also expressed concern over “no action” been taken against Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his “baseless allegations” against BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Elections to 542 Lok Sabha seats are being conducted in seven phases between April 11 and May 19. Results will be declared on May 23.

In phase 4, 961 candidates were in the fray and 12.79 crore voters were eligible to cast their ballot.

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