A day before the fifth and last phase of general elections in West Bengal, incidents of violence at several places have thrown a challenge before the Election Commission in conducting free, fair and peaceful elections at 17 parliamentary constituencies that will vote on Monday.
Five persons were arrested on Sunday for reportedly vandalising CPM office last night, leaving seven of its leaders, including state committee member and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) state president Sayandeep Mitra, injured. Of the five held (all got bail within few hours after the arrest), two have been named in the FIR. Central forces have been deployed to prevent any further trouble in the area.
The CPM party office on Baghabati Chatterjee Street at Belgharia was attacked allegedly by TMC-backed goons. Two zonal committee members of CPM – Subimal Chakraborty and Jhantu Majumder – were attacked. When Mitra went to put in a police complaint, he was reportedly beaten up as well. Three of the seven injured have been admitted at a private hospital in Belgahria. Left Front chairman Biman Bose, Dum Dum CPM candidate Asim Dasgupta, and RSP leader Khshiti Goswami visited those injured Sunday morning.
Soon after the attack, CPM leader Gautam Deb had issued warnings that party supporters would block the BT road if those responsible for the attacks were not arrested by 9 am today. State Congress president and Congress LS candidate from Berhampore, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury faced opposition from the TMC. This morning, as Chowdhury was on his way to Shaktipur, his car was stopped at Manikhar by TMC supporters led by their leader Humayun Kabir for over two hours. Chowdhury was rescued after the police intervened. “The TMC is all set to capture booths here and we anticipate trouble here tomorrow (Monday). In spite of all the assurances by the EC, we have seen that it has been, so far, nothing more than a toothless tiger,” Chowdhury said.
Bose, too, was critical of the ruling party and said it is slowly losing its confidence. “The party had made all sorts of promises before coming to power and now that it has failed to fulfil any of those, it has lost its confidence and is therefore resorting to violence to disrupt a fair poll process,” he said.
Reports of TMC supporters launching an attack also came from Cossipore where CPM leader Kalyan Samajdar was attacked allegedly by ten persons. After he took shelter inside a TMC party office, he was chased and attacked, along with a few other CPM supporters. ACP Ziaur Rahman had to confront the ire of local TMC supporters when he visited the spot.
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While Rahman refused to comment on the issue, local TMC leadership in both the cases have denied any involvement of party workers. Kabir, however, said that Chowdhury was in the area to instigate Congress supporters to commit acts of violence.
Special observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh said that the Commission took prompt action to stop all incidents of violence. Talking about the incidents at Beleghata and Cossipore, he said, “The commissioner of police had been asked to come up with an official statement. The police observer has been asked to look into it and file a report.” Asked if ample steps have been taken to ensure free and fair polling in the last pahse, he said: “The DMs have been intimated that the control room at the CEO office would be open throughout the night and they have been asked to report any untoward incident.”