Voters queue up outside booth no. 117 in Bagdah, North 24 Parganas district in West Bengal early Wednesday morning. (Source: Twitter/ANI)
Two days after West Bengal witnessed violence and death of 14 people during the panchayat polls, re-polling at 572 booths in 19 districts was held amid tight security on Wednesday. The re-polling recorded a voter turnout of 68 per cent and was conducted almost peacefully, a State Election Commission official told PTI. The West Bengal State Election Commission (SEC) had ordered re-polling on Tuesday following demands by Opposition parties and a post-poll scrutiny of reports of political violence that marred the polling across the state.
“Around 68 per cent polling was recorded. There are people still standing in the queue. The repoll has been more or less peaceful,” PTI quoted the SEC official as saying. “Initially, we had earmarked 568 booths but later on increased it to 572 booths,” the official further said. The counting of votes will take place on May 17.
Meanwhile, police said that they found the body of a booth presiding officer, who was reported missing on May 14, beside the railway tracks in North Dinajpur district. The police found the body of Raj Kumar Ray, 33, from Sonadangi area beside the railway tracks Tuesday night. The cause of the demise is yet to be ascertained.
The SEC feels that the death may not have been caused due to the poll violence. Polling officials, demanding a thorough investigation into the death, blocked the Raiganj-Kaliaganj Road for at least two hours on Wednesday.
There were also reports of a voter’s death from Malda district. The voter, reportedly, died at Baishnabnagar area after he fell ill while standing in the queue.
The police also arrested several bike-borne miscreants for allegedly intimidating voters at Bhangar polling booth in South 24 Parganas. One person was killed and a TMC leader arrested from this area on the direction of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ahead of the poll.
Protesting against the selection of booths for the re-polling, CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty said, “The SEC did not order repoll in those booths where we saw the TMC letting loose a reign of terror. Repolling has been ordered in those booths where TMC candidates might lose the polls.”
The opposition BJP also raised issues against the SEC’s decision to re-polling in 572 booths only, saying, “In today’s repoll too there were incidents of violence and in few places police acted swiftly. We had demanded repolling in 2,300 booths, but the SEC conducted repolling only in 572 booths,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said.
Whereas, the TMC leadership expressed satisfaction over what they termed as “free and fair” polls conducted by the SEC. “The people have voted freely and fairly. The opposition does not have any base. They just wanted to create trouble to score some political brownie points,” TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.