Kolkata police on Sunday confirmed that three people were injured in the bomb explosion which took place in the north-eastern part of Kolkata on Sunday morning during the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) elections. One person has been arrested in the case, officials said.
The incident took place near the polling station at Taki Boy’s School in KMC ward No 36. The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Congress traded charges and accused each other of ferrying in outsiders to create trouble.
“The incident took place around 200 metres from the polling station. The election process has not been affected by this. A huge police contingent has been deployed in the area. We have appealed to voters to exercise their right to franchise without fear. The injured man has been taken to hospital,” Priyabrata Roy, deputy commissioner of police (eastern suburban division), told the media.
Leaders of opposition parties, as well as the TMC, levelled allegations of intimidation and booth jamming in several areas.
BJP leader Meena Devi Purohit, who has won from ward No 22 thrice since 2005 because of her popularity, alleged that she and her followers were attacked by TMC supporters at the polling station in Maheswari Boy’s School in central Kolkata in the morning.
“A woman assaulted me and tore my blouse. They did not let me enter the booth,” Purohit said.
Dismissing allegations that TMC was orchestrating all the violence, transport minister Firhad Hakim, who is contesting the polls, said, “They brought similar charges during the March-April assembly polls in Kolkata. The Election Commission of India looked into all the allegations and found them to be baseless.”
Reacting to the BJP’s allegation that its polling agents were being driven out from many booths, Hakim said, “The BJP has not even read the manual issued by the election commission. It clearly says an agent has to be a resident of the area where the booth is located. The BJP cannot hire people from anywhere and send them as polling agents. The party has no organisation.”
“I am very happy with the performance of the Kolkata Police. Polling is going on peacefully. The BJP’s allegation, that security cameras were deactivated in many places, is baseless. I personally visited some booths,” said Hakim.
TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee dismissed the BJP’s allegations and said strong action will be taken if any TMC worker is found to be involved in the alleged violence and electoral malpractice.
“The TMC cannot do anything if the BJP does not have the organisational strength to deploy polling agents in all the booths. The polls are being held peacefully barring some stray incidents. If the media has any photo or video footage, showing our workers involved in violence or electoral malpractice, please provide it. Our party will give them exemplary punishment and so will the state administration. I am saying this as the TMC national general secretary,” Banerjee said after casting his vote at a school near his home at Harish Mukherjee Road in south Kolkata at 2 pm.
There are more than 4500 polling booths in around 370 main and auxiliary polling stations in Kolkata.
The BJP, Congress and CPI(M) raised allegations of violence and electoral malpratice at around 100 polling stations till 1 pm when the polling rate stood at 36.8 %.
“The presiding officers in all polling booths are sitting as silent spectators. The TMC has shown how low its confidence is even after winning 213 of the state’s 294 assembly seats six months ago. Hundreds of our workers are still homeless because of the violence that took place after May,” said Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya.
“The Kolkata Police has proved that it is an organ of the ruling party and not a law enforcement agency. We started our agitation at 1 pm. It will spread to all districts after the polls,” Bhattacharya added.
Governor Jadgeep Dhankhar and his wife cast their votes in a booth set up at the office of the principal accountant general. The governor said he asked his security personnel not to enter the polling station.
“Last night the state election commission issued a directive saying only the security personnel of chief minister Mamata Banerjee and TMC Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee can enter polling booths,” said Dhankhar.
Two crude bombs also went off near Khanna cinema in north Kolkata but there was no report of injury.
Security was tightened all over the Bengal capital and its entry points because of the polls. Prohibitory order under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was clamped within 100 metres of all polling stations.
More than 23,500 policemen were deployed to ensure the safety of voters and the candidates contesting in the city’s 144 civic wards. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) currently controls 126 of these seats.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which won five seats in the 2015 polls, alleged that the ruling party had ferried in outsiders to create trouble.
“Our leaders spotted people from the districts coming to Kolkata in buses. We apprehend trouble. The TMC never allows free and fair elections,” Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar said on Saturday.
The BJP also lodged a complaint with the state election commission saying the ruling party unleashed violence all over the city so that voters stayed away from polling stations.
The party announced that its workers will start an agitation from 1 pm and intensify the protest after polling was over.
“People can see for themselves that we did not right thing by demanding deployment of CAPF. We will file a report before the Calcutta high court division bench during the next hearing on December 23,” said senior BJP leader Shishir Bajoria.
Though the division bench of the Calcutta high court chief justice turned the BJP’s plea on Friday, it did not close the matter and said it will hear all parties again on December 23 and by then the state government and the SEC have to file their reports.
During the hearing, the SEC and the state government told the division bench that adequate police arrangements have been made. Reacting to this, the chief justice said, “We have kept it (the matter) pending to see if what has been stated in this court is being complied with.”
Kolkata police commissioner Soumen Mitra, who inspected the security arrangements and ordered a random inspection of vehicles in the city and at its entry points, told the media on Saturday that all precautions had been taken.
“We are confident that the elections will be peaceful,” Mitra said.
The state election commission (SEC) installed security cameras inside all polling booths, counting centres and facilities to be used for storing around 6500 electronic voting machines (EVMs) following an order passed by the Calcutta high court on December 16. The petition was filed by the BJP.
The BJP had also moved the high court seeking deployment of central armed police forces (CAPF). It told the court that BJP candidates and voters may face violence on Sunday and cited the alleged killings after the March-April assembly polls as the ground for such apprehension.
The BJP’s petition was rejected by a single bench on Thursday and the division bench of chief justice Prakash Shrivastava and justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj on Friday night. The party challenged the order in the Supreme Court but no hearing was held.
Meanwhile, TMC and Congress supporters got into a fistfight inside the premises of Sri Jain Vidyalaya on Brabourne Road in central Kolkata where a polling station was set up in ward No 45. This, however, did not affect the polling process, said policemen deployed at the spot. The troublemakers were removed by the police.