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Civic polls peaceful in Darjeeling hills, withdrawl in Raiganj

voters linepup in kurseong civic poll
Four municipalities in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts voted peacefully today, prompting Bimal Gurung to take a dig at Mamata Banerjee by contrasting the polling day images from the hills with those from the plains.

The Trinamul Congress leaders from the hills, too, admitted that free fair and "real elections" were conducted in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik.

Gurung, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president, today said: "Look at the images coming from the plains and the one you see in the hills. It is clear that democracy is at peril in the plains where Trinamul is in power. We have always believed in democracy and the way the polls were conducted is an example that real democracy exits in the hills but the same cannot be said in places where they are in power."

Widespread violence was reported from Raiganj in North Dinajpur, Domkal in Murshidabad and Pujali in South 24-Parganas during today's civic polls.

Till late in the evening, no major problems were reported anywhere from the hills.

Ranjita Thami, 30, was arrested for allegedly trying to cast a false vote in Darjeeling.

Amit P. Javalgi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, said: "Ranjita Thami from Ging tea estate was arrested before she could cast a vote after polling agents of Trinamul and independent candidates had spotted her. She had come to cast false vote in the name of Aneesha Pradhan of ward 10 in Darjeeling."

Even the Trinamul leaders said they had no major complaints in the hills. N.B. Khawash, the working president of Trinamul (hills), said: "The elections have been free and fair. After many years, real elections were held in the hills. Earlier, it was always one-sided or candidates won through selections and not elections."

In 2011, the Morcha had won all civic seats in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong uncontested. Elections were held only in five of the nine wards in Mirik, which, too, had been won by the Morcha.

Khawash added: "We can say complete democracy has prevailed in the hills and this is because of the state government's grip on law and order. This is Trinamul's first victory. We are also confident that people want change."

Trinamul is confident of forming the board in Mirik.

Gurung said the Morcha was confident of victory in the hills, even though he obliquely admitted that some Independents would win in some wards.

Till 4 pm, the voting percentage was about 60 per cent in Darjeeling, 66 per cent in Kurseong and 72 per cent in Mirik.

In Kalimpong, Harka Bahadur Chhetri said he was confident that the Jana Andolan Party would form the board there.


Congress and Left Front withdrew candidates in Raiganj


The Congress and the Left Front "withdrew" candidates and polling agents as alleged Trinamul workers indulged in violence to capture booths during the civic elections in Raiganj today.
"In consultation with the Left leaders, we have decided to withdraw our candidates and agents. Trinamul has indulged in violence in a blatant manner and police and administration stood as mute spectators. We demand re-polling in all seats but the polling can be free and fair only if the administration can ensure necessary steps," Congress leader Dipa Das Munshi said.
Some voters of a booth at Coronation High School in ward 18 alleged that outsiders had asked Left and Congress voters to leave around 8.30am. A clash ensued and a youth among the outsiders was caught as he was carrying a firearm in his waist. He was handed over to police.
The police resorted to a lathi-charge to disperse the crowd. The outsiders, meanwhile, entered the booth and resorted to rigging. The police were informed but they allegedly did not act.

A group of youths came on bikes at a booth in Collegepara (ward 24) and lobbed bombs. Voters left the spot in fear but some re-assembled and stood in queue. The youths again returned and lobbed bombs for the second time.
After the second attack, agents of the Congress and the CPM and voters could not be found near the booth.
Around 10.30am, another group reached ward 7 and fired in open. Locals put up resistance and chased them away. The EVM at the booth was ransacked.
Bombs were hurled at booths in wards 26 and 27 also.
District Trinamul leaders, however, scoffed at the Congress and the Left. "Leaders of the CPM and the Congress can foresee their defeat. That is why they have joined together and are raising baseless charges at us," Amal Acharya, the North Dinajpur district Trinamul president, said.
There were "some minor incidents" which other parties are blowing out of proportions, he said.
Officials of the district administration claimed that they had played an "appropriate role." "The administration has delivered its responsibility in a proper manner. We have heard about the demands of re-polling and will inform the state election commission. As there is tension in some areas of the town, police have been asked to maintain vigilance in these locations," Ayesha Rani A, the district magistrate of North Dinajpur, said.(TT)

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