A leaked audiotape, a high voter turnout, and skirmishes between the political rivals dominated the first half of the fifth phase of polling in Bengal. With today’s voting, polling will be over in almost 60 per cent of Bengal (in 180 constituencies out of 292).
Meanwhile, with the death of another candidate succumbing to Covid-19, elections in two constituencies have been countermanded. Some incidents of violence and skirmishes have been reported today from various constituencies.
In most cases, the opposition parties or independents have alleged attacks on them by the ruling party. At Chakdaha in Nadia district one person, allegedly a TMC worker, was seen moving around with a katta (a desi pistol), and was arrested later.
At certain other places, TMC accused the BJP of attacking or threatening their workers and supporters. In Murshidabad, the police had to resort to lathi-charge. The ISF (Abbas Siddiqui’s party, a partner of Left-Congress combine) alleged central forces opened fire at Kurulgachha of Deganga (North 24 Paragans), but it was denied by the forces.
However, unlike the fourth phase during which one BJP supporter was killed in firing allegedly by the TMC and four TMC supporters were killed in CISF firing at Sitalkuchi, Saturday was free of any major incident till 2 o’clock.
Despite everything, voter turnout was impressive even today. By 1.30 PM, 54.67 per cent polling was recorded. This assumes more significance in the light of the fact that out of 45 seats having polls today, 23 gave lead to the TMC and 22 to BJP in 2019. It is kante ki takkar in true sense.
Meanwhile, Sitalkuchi was still at the centre stage of debate even today. An audiotape surfaced yesterday in which purportedly Mamata Benerjee is heard instructing his party nominee of Sitalkuchi to hold rallies with bodies of the four of her supporters a day later, and to prepare a ‘diary’ in a way so that the SP of the district can be implicated. The tape was also released by Amit Malviya of BJP’s IT cell. The TMC later alleged the central government tapped the Chief Minister’s phone.
Today, during his rally in Asansol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue and commented that Didi’s politics was unmasked with the release of this tape. He further said the CM has ‘long tradition of doing politics over the dead bodies’. On the other hand, TMC MP Kakali Ghosh Dasidar was heard warning the central forces that they should not dare to repeat ‘Sitalkuchi’. She gave this threat at a place that was apparently peaceful.
(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)
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