Kolkata: The first phase of polling for panchayat elections in West Bengal witnessed violence as six were injured in clashes between CPM and TMC supporters in Purulia. The clashes took place at a polling booth over formation of a queue for voters.
Twelve people have been injured and one Congress worker has already been admitted to hospital in Kolkata during the election which is a crucial test for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had taken on the State Election Commission over security and poll dates.
Leader of the Opposition leader and CPI(M) politburo member Surya Kanta Mishra was involved in an altercation with local Trinamool Congress supporters outside a polling booth at Khadurdah Gram Panchayat area in West Midnapore district.
The first phase of the panchayat elections saw voter turnout of 70 per cent amidst tight security and surveillance by helicopters. In the once-feared Maoist strongholds of Pirakata, Bhimpur, Salboni and Goaltore in West Midnapore district, voters were seen standing in long queues.
Old-timers in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts told reporters that they had not witnessed such enthusiasm among voters for many years. Women were seen in large numbers, with the elderly among them holding sticks for support, waiting to cast their votes.
At Bishnupur in Bankura district, a large number of Muslims were seen standing in queues. Asked if voting during Ramzan inconvenienced them, they mostly replied in the negative.
The opposition Congress and Left Front alleged that central forces were not deployed properly and that TMC resorted to terror. "Is it an election? Central forces were not properly deployed. Several workers were brutally beaten up. This is the bloodiest election I have ever seen," WBPCC chief Pradip Bhattacharjee said.
Bhattacharjee said that he informed the Union Home ministry about the violence during the elections. The Left Front also alleged that that central forces were not used properly and TMC bikers terrorised CPI(M) and Left Front workers.
"The central forces were not deployed properly. There were several instances of booth capturing in West Midnapore district. TMC biker gangs terrorised the people. But at some place people came out to vote ignoring their fear," Left Front chairman Biman Bose said.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)