- Mamata Banerjee dialled Governor Jagdeep Dhankar from Nandigram
- Trinamool earlier complained of booth capture and rigging
- Bengal is witnessing one of the fiercest poll battles in Nandigram
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had to be rescued by the Central paramilitary forces today after having to stay confined for more than two hours at a polling booth in Nandigram amid an extremely tense face-off between BJP and Trinamool Congress supporters. From the spot, she dialled Governor Jagdeep Dhankar, telling him the situation was a failure of the Election Commission, which was in charge of the law and order.
"Anything might happen at any moment... There is total breakdown of law and order," and she feared for her life, added the wheelchair-bound Chief Minister, who was escorted out by the security forces, who managed to bring the situation under control after long-drawn negotiations with the villagers.
Soon after, the Governor tweeted, "Issues flagged @MamataOfficial a while ago on phone have been imparted (sic) to the concerned". The Election Commission has sought a report on the matter from the local administration.
Nandigram -- the centrepiece of the Bengal elections, where the Chief Minister is facing her protege-turned arch-rival Suvendu Adhikari -- is voting today in the second phase in a highly polarised atmosphere.
Ms Banerjee, who was monitoring the proceedings from her home in Nandigram's Reyapara, left around 1 pm as Trinamool leaders alleged booth capture and rigging by BJP workers, to make a round of the trouble spots.
Boyal was the Chief Minister's first stop. Chaos broke out as soon as she reached and complained that the polling agent from her party had not been allowed inside the booth. Villagers suddenly started shouting "Jai Shri Ram" slogans. Soon after, the Trinamool supporters gathered.
Stuck between two hostile groups, the Chief Minster, who enjoys Z-Plus security, had to stay inside a room of the counting booth. Outside, the security forces were caught on camera shuttling between the two slogan-shouting groups who faced each other across a field, trying to broker peace.
"We have no problem with the central forces... It is not their fault... they are our brothers and sisters, but they are here on the instructions of the Home Minister. Why should that be allowed? Why has the Election Commission allowed it?" a furious Chief Minister later told the media. "There is constant slogan-shouting and people of the constituency are not being able to vote freely... Never have I seen an election like this," she added.
Alleging that goons "from other states are creating ruckus here", Ms Banerjee said, "I have lodged 63 poll-related complaints since morning, no action has been taken by the Election Commission".
"People who are raising slogans are outsiders. They came from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They are being protected by Central Forces," added
Ms Banerjee, whose party had written to the Election Commission earlier, requesting that security forces from NDA-ruled states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh not be deployed in Bengal in the interest of free and fair polls.
Security personnel from these states, the party alleged, will be partisan.
Voting in Nandigram is in progress amid multiple allegations of disruptions by the Trinamool Congress.
Senior party leader Derek O'Brien has already written to the Election Commission, alleging booth capture by BJP men. "Huge mob of BJP workers have entered booth no.s 6, 7, 49, 27, 162, 21, 26, 13, 262, 256, 163, 20. BJP workers attempting to take control of EVM & rigging the booth," he wrote.
In the morning, party MP Mahua Moitra tweeted, "More than 150 EVM machines malfunctioning since Phase II voting started this morning Wish @ECISVEEP had put half as much effort into ensuring no EVM glitches as it did into transferring police officials."
The Election Commission said that problems relating to voting machines had been largely resolved.