Elections 2021

Battleground Nandigram: Didi, BJP spar over ‘voter intimidation’

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on April 01, 2021

According to the Election Commission, over 80% votes were polled in West Bengal till 5 pm on Thursday   -  Ashok Bhaumik

Mamata seeks Governor’s help as tensions flare up

Tempers ran high amidst incidents of violence being reported in Nandigram and the nearby areas during phase-IIof polls in the State.

While the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called up Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar seeking his help, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that Banerjee may seek re-election if she is unsure of a victory in Nandigram.

Phase-II of the elections saw 30 Assembly segments, spread across four districts of Purba Midnapore, Paschim Midnapore, Bankura and South 24 Parganas, go to polls.

CM’s complaint

Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool Congress alleged “fear and intimidation”, “booth blocking and false voting” by the BJP and its candidate, Suvendu Adhikari.

The Trinamool Congress has filed 63 complaints with the ECI regarding issues in Nandigram on polling day. Banerjee, who was stuck in a booth at Boyal village for nearly two hours had to be “evacuated by central forces”, reportedly filed a complaint against “unknown persons” for “blocking of votes”.

However, women supporters of BJP alleged that “polling was being delayed” by Banerjee. They protested shouting “Jai Shri Ram” slogans.

Incidentally, Suvendu, who went in their hours later, did not face any such resistance.

‘Respect for central forces’

“I have respect for the Central Forces but they are being run under instructions of the Home Minister,” she said levelling specific allegations against Amit Shah. She said this despite her party filing complaints over EVM malfunctioning and “intimidation of voters by Central Forces”.

She claimed, “Hindi-speaking goons had taken over the booth” and was “not allowing genuine voters”.

“I am not worried about Nandigram. I will win. But, I am worried about democracy being held hostage,” she added.

On the other hand, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari countered allegations claiming that the CM had “violated” the code of conduct for candidates during an election.

Suvendu ruled out any demand for re-polling, claiming “this was the most peaceful conduct of elections”.

When asked about his car being attacked during a booth-visit in one of the villages of Nandigram, he dismissed it as “handiwork of illeterates”.

This apart, a BJP worker, Uday Dubey, reportedly committed suicide after allegedly being threatened by Trinamool workers last night. The Election Commission has ordered a probe and sought reports on the happenings in the high-profile constituency.

Modi flays Mamata

Banerjee’s high voltage drama did catch the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who across two back-to-back poll rallies, claimed “Didi’s nervousness was visible” as she was losing in Nandigram.

“Didi is losing Nandigram. The change that we are calling for in Bengal has begun. Now other parts of the State needs to pitch in,” he said while speaking at a rally in Uluberia (Howrah) – on the western banks of River Hooghly.

He even threw in a taunt claiming that Banerjee must now address rumours of whether she will “contest from a safer seat in south Kolkata area”.

“Seasonal Hindu”

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister had called Banerjee a seasonal Hindu, as it was only during elections she sought to “harp on her religious identity” and mention “gotra” (lineage).

Banerjee has over the last few days gone on a religious overdrive during her campaigning in Nandigram and elsewhere. She was visiting temples, chanting mantras and slokas, referring to her “lineage” and “Brahmin caste” in a bid to counter the charges of appeasement that BJP had levelled against her.

Meanwhile, Modi’s trip to Bangladesh recently had raked up a controversy as the dates of his visit to temples in the neighbouring country coincided with the date of first phase of polling in Bengal.

The Trinamool, on its part, has questioned as to why PM Modi will be allowed to campaign in West Bengal when there are elections being held across districts here.

Other instances of violence

Meanwhile, there were sporadic instances of violence in some of the other constituencies that went to polls today. These primarily included primarily Keshpur and Debra in Paschim Midnapore.

In Keshpur, the BJP candidate was attacked when he went to visit a booth. At least seven people have been arrested in connection with his visit. The polling agent of a Trinamool candidate in Keshpur was also injured in poll violence.

Complaints were also registered against the Debra candidates of both BJP and Trinamool. Both of them are former IPS officers. This apart, a Trinamool worker, Uttam Dolui, succumbed to “stab injuries” in Keshpur, hours before polling began. His family members alleged that the victim was attacked by “BJP goons”.

Published on April 01, 2021

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