Around 16.78 per cent of voters cast their ballots on Thursday in the first two hours of polling in three Lok Sabha constituencies in West Bengal, amid reports of sporadic incidents of violence from some areas, officials said.
An Election Commission (EC) official said around 16.14 per cent polling was recorded in Darjeeling, while the percentage in Jalpaiguri (SC) and Raiganj seats was 16.84 and 17.45, respectively.
Reports of violence and protests came in from some places in the Raiganj constituency, EC sources said.
A reporter and a camera person of a local news channel were allegedly manhandled when they went to cover polling at Kataphulbari in the Raiganj constituency, they said.
Voters in Uttar Dinajpur district’s Chopra under the Raiganj constituency reportedly put up a road blockade, complaining about the absence of central forces at the polling stations, the sources said.
“We are scared for our lives… We have no confidence in the state police, and want immediate deployment of central forces here,” a voter in Hemtabad (SC) assembly segment under the Raiganj Lok Sabha constituency, said.
Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to control a mob after stones were pelted at them and bombs were hurled by unknown miscreants in Chopra, a senior EC official in the district said.
At least three persons were detained by police in this connection, he said.
“Our officials are there with state police officers to control the situation. We are talking to the voters to urge them to cast their ballots without any fear. We have assured them of total protection,” the official said.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) candidate from Raiganj Md Salim claimed that his car was attacked by unknown persons when he went to a polling booth at Islampur in Uttar Dinajpur.
“I got to know of rigging inside this booth. After I reached the polling station, some people attacked my car.
Though I am unhurt, the vehicle has been damaged. I believe the ruling TMC is behind the incident,” Salim alleged.
The EC has deployed 194 companies of central forces to cover 80 per cent of the over 5,000 booths in the three Lok Sabha seats.
The Commission has also appointed former Bihar Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ajay V Nayak as special observer for West Bengal, while retired IPS officer Vivek Dubey has been sent to the state as special police observer.