Peaceful Voting Marks First Phase of Lok Sabha Elections in North Bengal

The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal saw peaceful voting, but was marred by sporadic incidents of violence between the ruling TMC and opposition BJP. The results could significantly impact the 2024 general elections.

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Rafia Tasleem
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Peaceful Voting Marks First Phase of Lok Sabha Elections in North Bengal

Peaceful Voting Marks First Phase of Lok Sabha Elections in North Bengal

The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal saw peaceful voting in the northern constituencies of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, and Jalpaiguri on Friday. Over 4.6 million voters exercised their franchise in around 5,814 polling booths, with a tight security arrangement by the Central Armed Forces and state police.

The voting process commenced at 7 am under tight security arrangements, with around 250 companies of armed central forces and 10,000 state police personnel deployed to ensure peaceful and fair polling. The voter turnout in the first four hours was around 33% in the three constituencies, with no major incidents reported so far.

The contest is seen as multi-cornered, with the main fight between the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Left Front and Congress are also in the race, along with several Independent candidates. Key candidates include BJP's Nishith Pramanik and TMC's Jagadish Chandra Barma Basunia in Cooch Behar, BJP's Monoj Tigga and TMC's Prakash Chik Baraik in Alipurduar, and BJP's Jayanta Kumar Roy and TMC's Nirmal Chandra Roy in Jalpaiguri.

However, the electoral process was disrupted, with both the BJP and TMC accusing each other of violence and hurting their poll agents and workers. The BJP alleged that TMC workers pelted stones in Cooch Behar's Chandamari area, injuring the party's booth president, while the TMC accused BJP leader Nisith Pramanik of using his position to store arms in his office.

The Election Commission had declared 746 polling stations as sensitive, with the highest number (391) in Jalpaiguri. Significant security measures were in place, with 112 companies of central forces and 4,500 state police personnel deployed in Coochbehar, the highest among the three seats. Sadly, a central forces personnel named Kumar Nilu, who was part of the Quick Response Team, died on Thursday night due to severe bleeding. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of his death.

Why this matters: The first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal is crucial for both the BJP and TMC, as the state sends the third-highest number of representatives to the Lok Sabha. The results of this election will set the tone for the remaining phases and could have a significant impact on the overall outcome of the 2024 general elections.

Despite sporadic incidents of violence reported in West Bengal, the overall voter turnout across 21 states and union territories on 102 Lok Sabha seats was over 24.5% in the first four hours of polling on Friday, according to the Election Commission. West Bengal governor C.V. Ananda Bose called off his planned visit to Cooch Behar during the 'silent period' before the elections after the TMC lodged a complaint with the Election Commission, alleging that he was attempting to 'meddle' in the elections.

Key Takeaways

  • Peaceful voting in 3 northern West Bengal constituencies, 33% turnout in 4 hrs.
  • Main contest between ruling TMC and opposition BJP, Left and Congress also in race.
  • Allegations of violence by both TMC and BJP, 746 polling stations declared sensitive.
  • High security with 250 companies of central forces, 10,000 state police personnel.
  • First phase crucial for BJP and TMC, sets tone for remaining elections in WB.