It is business as usual in Bengal. The third phase of voting has been marked with innumerable clashes and allegations from the morning, made mostly by the ISF (Abbas Siddiqui’s party) and the BJP against the ruling TMC. On the other hand, TMC too have made some allegations of creating terror against the ISF.
This was expected. 16 out of 31 constituencies where polling is taking place today are in South 24 Parganas, the citadel of Abhishek Banerjee. He is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, the most controversial character of this election, and this time it is an acid test for him to prove his worth.
Whether TMC succeeds or fails to make a comeback, if Abhishek can protect his fort, he will have his political future intact. The situation in the district was tense for last fortnight, during which 7 opposition candidates were attacked, and about one thousand incidents have been reported to the police.
Since morning, from various places of the district allegations of terrorising the voters or thrashing the agents have been reported by the visual media. While in most of these cases fingers have been raised at the ruling party, at some places TMC alleged the ISF is not allowing its voters to come to the booth. Local TMC leaders from Canning Purba constituency alleged the ISF supporters have hurled bombs to stop the voters.
Till 2019 Lok Sabha election, not only the TMC had taken lead in all these 16 constituencies, the opposition forces were virtually absent. Even now, the BJP is organisationally weak. But the ISF led by the cleric of Furfura Sharif, a partner of the Left-Congress alliance, is taking on the TMC at various places this time. This is a new development in the region.
Despite palpable tension, a high poll percentage has been recorded in the district and also in 8 constituencies of Hooghly and 7 constituencies of Howrah district. By 11 in the morning, 31 per cent voters exercised their right to vote, and by 3 pm the figure touched almost 65.59 per cent. But this vote cannot be interpreted easily, for it is a do or die fight among all the three forces. This vote will also decide the fate of Abbas Siddique, and his supporters are also trying to ensure all his supporters vote.
Elsewhere in Bengal, in Howrah and Hooghly districts, both TMC and BJP are taking blame for sporadic incidents of violence. In Goghat of Hooghly district a woman allegedly succumbed to her injuries caused by the TMC goons when she tried to protect her son, a BJP worker, from them. This incident happened in the night, nine hours before the election. Thereafter incidents of intimidating the voters and clashes have been reported throughout. Sujata Mondol Khan, the TMC candidate of Arambagh of Hooghly district and estranged wife of BJP MP Soumitra Khan, has alleged the BJP supporters attacked her.
Two star candidates of this phase—Tanushree Chakraborty and Papiya Adhikari, both from the BJP—were seen today moving from booth to booth of their constituency. Apart from regular politicians, today’s vote will decide the fate of Swapan Dasgupta, one of BJP’s intellectual faces.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)