Of the 30 seats in Bengal that went to the polls in the first of eight phases, the spotlight was firmly on the seven constituencies of East Midnapore where CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool and the family of his former assistant Suvendu Adhikari are fighting for the first time an election standing on opposite sides.
The windshield of a car carrying Soumendu Adhikari, the brother of BJP candidate Nandigram Suvendu, was reportedly smashed by workers from Trinamool in Sabajput, just 8 km from the Shanti Kunj family home in the town of Contai . The brick attack, which took place around 11 a.m. and injured Soumendu’s driver Ram Singh, reflected the lingering bitterness between Trinamool and the Adhikaris in East Midnapore.
Neither Soumendu nor his father Sisir Adhikari, Contai’s deputy from TMC who recently switched to BJP, made much of the clashes.
BJP leader Soumendu Adhikari’s vehicle attacked in East Midnapore
There were a few other incidents – rude bombs were thrown at Pataspur to intimidate voters and voting was suspended in Majhna, about 4 km from the town of Contai, for an hour following allegations of malfunction EVMs. Complaints and counter-complaints were lodged by both parties with the Election Commission regarding the ballot in the district.
The violence, however, did not deter female voters – especially Muslims – from coming out in droves and pushing the vote percentage to over 80%, which Trinamool and BJP polling officers noted with contrasting emotions.
If the number of red flags in Khejuri was any indication, the Left Front, too, seemed to be in the fight in some pockets. Khejuri and Pataspur had played a key role in the agricultural turmoil of 2007 which culminated in Nandigram police gunfire which left 14 people dead.
In Assam, the cumulative percentage of the vote in all 47 constituencies is likely to exceed the provisional figure of 77%, state Chief Electoral Officer Nitin Khade said. Those 47 seats with an electorate of 81 lakh voters, including the Majuli constituency of CM Sarbananda Sonowal, had a voting percentage of over 85% in the 2016 assembly polls that brought the BJP to power to the first time.
Barring minor glitches in the EVDs at a few polling stations and clashes between Congress and BJP supporters in Samaguri in Nagaon and Jonai in Dhemaji district, voting went uninterrupted.
Besides CM Sonowal, prominent candidates whose electoral fate is now sealed in the MVE include State Congress President Ripun Bora (Gohpur), outgoing Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami (Jorhat), President of the ‘AGP Atul Bora (Bokakhat), the leader of imprisoned Raijor Dal Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and the president of Assam Jatiya Parishad, Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan and Naharkatia). BJP minister and star activist Himanta Biswa Sarma said the NDA would win “42 to 43 seats” over those who went to the polls in the first of three phases.
(Contributions by Subhro Niyogi & Suman Mandal in Bengal and Prabin Kalita in Assam)