Bengal scores 80, ovewhelming turnout as BJP-TMC lock horns
Throughout the polling day, the AITC accused BJP and central forces of interfering at the polling booths and intimidating the voters.
The match of allegations and counter-allegations between the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal continued as the state began voting in the first of its eight phases of assembly elections on Saturday, March 27th. The state reported 79.79 percent voter turnout by 6 pm in the first phase. However, throughout the polling day, the AITC accused BJP and central forces of interfering at the polling booths and intimidating the voters. Voting is currently underway at 30 of the 294 assembly seats in the state, including Nandigram, which the AITC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting. Incidents of bombing and firing were also reported at the beginning of voting today in the Purba (east) Medinipur district.
All these 30 constituencies are in spread across five districts - Purba Medinipur, Paschim (west) Medinipur, Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura - considered to be the Dalit and tribal dominated districts in West Bengal. Out of the 30 seats, AITC and BJP are contesting 29 seats each, extending support to other parties in the remaining one. In the Left Front, the Left is contesting at 22 seats, Congress at five and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) at one.
Since the voting began on Saturday morning, the AITC media cell has been circulating messages accusing BJP supporters and party workers of entering polling stations and misleading and intimidating voters at several polling booths, especially in the Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur districts. They have also alleged that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is also threatening the voters. Some alleged indents were also reported by the media cell in Jhargram, Purulia and Bankura. Cases of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) malfunctioning were also reported at several polling stations. AITC has also alleged that many voters in Dakshin Kanthi, an important area in the Nandigram constituency, said that they voted for AITC, but the VVPAT showed the BJP symbol. Meanwhile, Banerjee also accused BJP of violating the code of conduct as Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about Bengal in his speech during his visit to Bangladesh.
A 10-member Trinamool Parliamentary delegation led by Lok Sabha leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Rajya Sabha leader Derek O'Brien met the election commission at noon. In a press conference held after the meeting, the AITC leaders condemned the Election Commission for recently changing a rule which permitted only a 'local person who might know many voters personally' to become a polling agent, to allegedly benefit BJP. "Suddenly, by an ECI's Notification dated 18 March 2021, such provision was expanded to include anybody from the assembly constituency without giving any cogent reason. After researching the sequence of the events, we found that BJP by way of a representation had requested the same and the real reason for such request was that they were not being able to engage agents at the booth level or adjoining booth level because of their organisational inabilities,” the statement issued by the party read.
Meanwhile, the BJP also hurled accusations at Banerjee, releasing an audio clip of an alleged call between the AITC chief and a BJP leader who is Suvendu Adhikari’s aide, reportedly asking for help to win Nandigram. In response, AITC also released an audio clip wherein purportedly BJP leader Mukund Roy discussed ways to influence the EC.
Indie Journal tried to contact the BJP media outreach personnel for comments regarding the allegations, but could not get a statement.