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Lok Sabha polls: Second phase concludes on largely peaceful note

Lok Sabha polls: Second phase concludes on largely peaceful note

DARJEELING/KOLKATA: Polling for the second phase on Thursday was mostly peaceful in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Raiganj, except some scattered incidents of violence. The voting percentage till 5 pm was 82.76 percent in Jalpaiguri, 72.14 percent in Darjeeling and 73.31 percent in Raiganj.

Ajoy V Nayak, Special Observer for Bengal, said: "Elections have been fair and peaceful. Some voters in Chopra under Darjeeling parliamentary constituency had alleged that they were not being able to go and cast their votes because of fear. The police volunteered to escort them to the polling booths and they voted."

While it was by and large peaceful in the Hills, in the plains there were reports of sporadic incidents of trouble. Technical snag in EVMs, however, was a common factor in the Hills and plains.

The Congress candidate from Raiganj and TMC candidate from Raiganj Kanaia Lal Agarwal had to wait at the polling stations to cast their votes, owing to snags in the EVMs.

At around 9.30 am, local residents of Middapara and Dighi colony staged a road blockade on National Highway 31, demanding CAPF deployment in booth number 180 in Chopra under the Darjeeling constituency.

A large police contingent along with RAF arrived at the spot, led by SDPO Somnath Jha and started area domination. "We asked the voters but they stated that the situation was peaceful and there was no problem in the booths. We are assuring all to cast their votes fearlessly. The police will provide all necessary security," stated Jha.

Meanwhile, the mob tried to beat up a man who they claimed was an outsider and had intimidated them. Police intervened and took the man into custody.

Anwar Ali, a TMC supporter, said that the mob is affiliated to BJP. "BJP does not have any support here, so they are trying to disturb the polling process," added Ali.

A huge contingent of state police arrived at the spot and resorted to baton charge on the protesters to lift the blockade. Meanwhile, miscreants hurled crude bombs and bricks at the police. Police in turn responded with tear gas shells. One of the police officers had to fire three rounds in the air to disperse the mob.

A Trinamool Congress party office in Dhupguri under Jalpaiguri was ransacked by miscreants. At booth number 112 in Chopra, miscreants damaged an EVM. In Mamatapara, Phulbari, Jalpaiguri, the TMC party office was set on fire and ransacked.

"Vote has been peaceful. BJP does not have a support base hence they have not been able to even provide polling agents in most of the booths. They have thus been trying to disturb the polling process," said TMC leader Goutam Deb.

Meanwhile, peace prevailed in the Hills, with no reports of any untoward incident in the first half of the polling day.

"Darjeeling does not have a history of poll violence. Let it be free and fair. However, there have been reports of EVMs malfunctioning in many places," stated Binay Tamang, president, GJM.

"There was a technical snag in my booth. We have managed to provide agents in most of the booths," stated Mann Ghising, president, GNLF. The party is supporting BJP in the poll fray.

However, in the later part of the day, the vehicle of Topden Bhutia, a polling agent of BJP, was vandalised by miscreants on Melli Road in Kalimpong. A press vehicle following Bhutia's vehicle was also vandalised.

An FIR was lodged against Independent Candidate Dr. Harka Bahadur Chettri in Kalimpong. "The presiding officer of the booth in which Chettri was a voter, lodged an FIR alleging violation of Model Code of Conduct for having used his cell phone while casting his vote," stated Drubojoti De, Superintendent of Police, Kalimpong.

Out of the 1,413 polling booths, 934 reported completion of polls at 6.30 pm. "During mock polls, 11 EVMs and 11 VVPATs were found defective," stated Joyoshi Das Gupta, District Election Officer and District Magistrate, Darjeeling.

BJP candidate Raju Bisht complained of massive rigging. Reacting to the claim, Das Gupta stated: "Complaints were not specifically from BJP. CAPF were present and we sent our teams but nothing could be substantiated."

Two deaths have been reported. 70-year-old Chittaranjan Das suffered a massive cardiac arrest after casting his vote and died. He was a resident of Naxalbari. In another incident, Meherunnissa, a middle-aged woman, was run over by a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway train on her way back home after casting her vote. The incident occurred near Dangipara in Siliguri.

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