-TMC, BJP both allege attacks on candidates
-Clashes reported from several parts of Bengal in phase-3 polls
-TMC blames BJP for assaults, clashes
Kolkata: The third phase of polling in West Bengal was marked with incidents of violence and allegation of voter suppression similar to the first two. Clashes were reported from several parts in the 16 seats in South 24 Parganas district (part II), seven in Howrah (part I) and eight in Hooghly (part I) where voting is underway.
TMC candidates Sujata Mondal and Nirmal Majhi have alleged that they were heckled and assaulted by BJP workers. Mondal, who is contesting the elections from Arambagh, said saffron party men chased her with bamboo sticks and hit her on the head while she visited polling booths in the Arandi area of the constituency. Mondal had allegedly received reports that “voters were not being allowed to exercise their franchise”.
“My bodyguards saved my life I came to know that BJP members were stopping people from casting their votes in Arandi. I went there to find out what went wrong. I was assaulted, hit with bamboo sticks by saffron party men,” Mondal said. TMC has tweeted a video from its official handle, showing Mondal making her way through a field.
“Central Forces are also not neutral.They’re telling people to vote for BJP,” Mondal additionally told ANI. The alleged issue of CRPF inaction was also raised by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a tweet and by TMC MP Derek O’Brien, in a letter to the Election Commission.
Mondal had received the TMC ticket after publicly declaring that she would leave BJP. Her husband is BJP MP Saumitra Khan. Her rival and BJP candidate Madhusudhan Bag told PTI that no one from his party had attacked Mondal. “It was the villagers who put up a resistance when the TMC leader tried intimidating them,” Bag said
A section of villagers also allegedly told PTI that “Mondal had threatened them with dire consequences if they visit polling booths to cast their vote”. PTI also quoted unnamed police sources as having said that one of Mondal’s security guards brought out a revolver in the course of the attack on her.
Mondal was allegedly also attacked in the late afternoon, when she reached Dihibagnan in Hooghly, local news outlet Sangbad Pratidin has reported. Banerjee has tweeted Mondal’s photograph, saying that the candidate suffered a head injury. “Only BJP can attack a woman candidate this way,” she wrote.
Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab has sought a report from poll personnel in Hooghly district in connection with the alleged attack on Mondal, an official told PTI.
In addition to MP O’Brien’s letter, senior TMC leader Firhad Hakim said he has apprised the Election Commission of the Arambagh episode. Hakim also said that he was in touch with Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain on these matters.
A BJP supporter’s family member was allegedly killed in Hooghly district, hours before polling in the area, police said. Madhabi Adak succumbed to her injuries sustained while protecting her son from a few men who barged into their house, they said.