Kolkata: Voting for assembly election kicked off in Bengal’s tribal heartland and Assam’s tea and traditional Assamese bastion got off on Saturday with a turnout of 80% and 77% respectively amid sporadic violence involving Trinamool and BJP supporters. Of the 30 assembly seats in Bengal that went to polls in the first of eight phases, the spotlight was firmly on the seven East Midnapore constituencies where CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool and her turncoat former aide Suvendu Adhikari’s family are, for the first time, fighting an election standing on opposite sides.
The windshield of a car ferrying Soumendu Adhikari, the brother of BJP’s Nandigram candidate Suvendu, was allegedly smashed by Trinamool workers at Sabajput, barely 8 km from the family’s Shanti Kunj home in Contai town .The brick attack, which occurred around 11am and left Soumendu’s driver Ram Singh injured, reflected the continuing bitterness between Trinamool and the Adhikaris in East Midnapore and elsewhere.
There were a few other incidents - crude bombs being hurled at Pataspur to intimidate voters and voting being suspended at Majhna, around 4km from Contai town, for an hour following allegations of malfunctioning of EVMs. Complaints and counter-complaints were lodged by both sides with the Election Commission over polling in the district.
The violence, however, did not deter women voters - particularly Muslims - from coming out in large numbers and pushing the polling percentage to above 80%, something that Trinamool and BJP polling agents noted with contrasting emotions. Neither Soumendu nor his father Sisir Adhikari, TMC’s Contai MP who crossed over to BJP recently, made much of the clashes. “Votes will speak, the lotus will bloom,” Sisir said.
If the number of red flags in Khejuri was any indication, the Left Front, too, appeared to be in the fight in some pockets. Khejuri and Pataspur had played a key role in the 2007 farmland stir that culminated in the Nandigram police firing that claimed 14 lives.
In Assam, the voting percentage across the 47 constituencies is 77%, the state’s chief electoral officer Nitin Khade said. These 47 seats with an electorate of 81,00,000 voters, including CM Sarbananda Sonowal’s Majuli constituency, had registered a polling percentage of over 85% in the 2016 assembly polls that brought BJP to office in the state for the first time.
Barring minor glitches in EVMs at a few polling stations and clashes between Congress and BJP supporters at Samaguri in Nagaon and Jonai in Dhemaji district, voting was by and large disruption-free. Minister and BJP’s star campaigner Himanta Biswa Sarma said NDA would win “42 to 43 seats” out of those that went to polls in the first of three phases.