Kolkata: People came out amid adversities - Covid and heat wave - in the penultimate phase of Bengal polls on Monday covering 34 assembly seats spread over Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Paschim Burdwan and Kolkata. The seventh phase recorded an average 75.06 per cent turnout. Polling percentages in the four south Kolkata assembly segments of Bhowanipore, Rashbehari, Ballygunge and Kolkata Port fell substantially over previous years as fear and anxiety kept several residents, particularly the elderly, away from booths for the first time in their lives. Till 5 pm on Monday, the four seats had notched up a turnout of 59.9%, lower that the 65.3% recorded from here in the 2016 assembly polls and 66% in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
“During the morning, the turnout was very low from the high-rises. It slightly improved later in the day,” said Debasish Kumar, Trinamool Congress’ Rashbehari candidate. “A family ritual on a poll day (of voting together) was broken today,” said former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s wife Meera. “This is the first assembly elections in which he couldn’t vote. Both the party and medical experts advised him not to step out.”
Eighty-two-year-old Namita Roy Chowdhury, too, did not step out of her Rashbehari Avenue apartment to vote, for the first time in her life. Chowdhury had earlier petitioned Calcutta High Court, questioning the rationale of holding an election during a public health crisis. “I have never missed a vote in my life,” she said. “I am always so excited about voting that I go and check whether my name is there on the voters’ list. And it was not just me. My elderly friends, too, did not step out of fear. We hadn’t opted for postal ballots, for we wanted to go out and vote.”
79.09% voting in 6th phase
The sixth phase of assembly election for 43 seats on April 21 saw a 79.09 per cent voter turnout. Among the four districts, Nadia recorded the highest voter turnout of 82.70 per cent while Barrackpore constituency in North 24 Parganas witnessed the lowest voter turnout of 67 per cent.
As many as 306 candidates, including 27 women, are in the fray in this phase. Long queues were seen outside most polling booths with security personnel asking everyone to adhere to Covid-19 safety protocols amid the surge in the pandemic.
Sporadic incidents of violence were also reported in the Barrackpore industrial belt. Clashes and subsequent bombing at Titagarh, Bijpur, Jagaddal, Barrackpore, Amdanga and Khardah triggered panic among locals throughout the day. At Titagarh, masked goons hurled crude bombs at Tata Gate area leaving at least six people, including a child, injured. All of them were admitted to a hospital.