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'Threats will not deter people from voting in large numbers'

Threats will not deter people from voting in large numbers
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Nandigram: A day after the high-octave campaigns drew battlelines in Nandigram, Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday claimed that despite being 'threatened' by BJP-backed goons, voters in Nandigram would cast their franchises in large numbers during the second phase of the Assembly polls on April 1 and ensure her party's victory.

Situated on the banks of river Haldi, Nandigram has turned out to be the most significant Assembly constituency as Banerjee is contesting from here against BJP nominee Suvendu Adhikari.

Meanwhile, TMC lodged a complaint with the Election Commission on Wednesday after the party alleged that BJP-backed miscreants were 'terrorising' electorates and TMC's polling agents at various villages. In its complaint, TMC mentioned that Adhikari was "habouring criminals, who are non-residents of Nandigram at AEON Public School at Reyapara's Palaimore, houses of Pabitra Kar at Boyal I and Meghnad Pal at Haripur, Gokulnagar Camp at Barachak, Ranginipur Birulia Camp, Chargolia Camp and Chaitanya Bazar at Amgachia."

This comes despite section 144 of the CrPC having been imposed since Tuesday 6.30 pm, around 48 hours ahead of the polling day on April 1. As many as 2.57 lakh electorates including 49 per cent women voters will exercise their voting rights at 355 booths in 278 polling stations in Nandigram, spread over 140 mouzas covering 288 sq kilometre.

The TMC delegation sought immediate intervention of the EC as no steps were taken despite complaining to the local police. Earlier, TMC had lodged similar complaints to the EC on March 22, 26 and 29.

"Outsiders are entering Boyal, Gokulnagar and Balarampur in Nandigram and creating tension. I would like to urge the EC to ensure a free, fair and peaceful election. EC must take action," Banerjee said, while leaving Nandigram on Wednesday for public meetings at Goghat, Singur in Hooghly and Uluberia in Howrah districts.

She returned to Nandigram around 3.30 pm. Banerjee accused BJP of influencing the EC. "We have not sought any favours from the EC. Why is the commission acting in this manner in Nandigram? EC must act if any candidate is campaigning flouting the norms. I am following all norms of the EC. They are terrorising people as they know that they have lost the match," she said.

Requesting anonymity, a senior TMC leader in Nandigram said: "In at least 10 to 12 villages in both Nandigram I and II including Gokulnagar, Boyal, Balarampur and Takapura, bike-borne Hindi-speaking goons raided houses of polling agents of TMC. The miscreants, mainly outsiders, guided by a few local youths, are moving out of villages after terrorising people using alternate village roads through which the Central Forces are entering."

Trinamool Congress workers raised similar allegations at Tekhali Bazar, Manarbazar, Janbari and Kalicharanpur area. There were also allegations of ransacking a TMC party office and bombing during the wee hours in some villages.

Though the EC has claimed that 22 companies of Central Forces have been deployed at Nandigram, allegations of no patrolling and proper sealing of the areas bordering the Nandigram Assembly constituency has cropped up.

Amid such a scenario, Banerjee has decided to leave Nandigram only on Friday morning instead of Thursday evening. She will fly to North Bengal to hold poll campaigns in Alipurduar and Cooch Behar.

A total of 18 candidates are contesting in Nandigram, including CPI(M)'s Minakshi Mukherjee, who has also raised allegations of 'terrorising' voters and demanded a free and fair election. BJP leadership, however, refuted all allegations.

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