With memories of 2015 assaults and hooliganism still fresh in their memories, the residents started the day cautiously with few voters turning up at the polling booths in the first hour but as the morning progressed and residents learnt from neighbours and helps about smooth voting and sparse queues at the polling booths, they came out in large numbers leaving behind the ghost of 2015. The rising confidence also had a direct impact on vote percentage as well with Bidhannagar clocking 72% voter turnout.
“In 2015, several of our block residents were beaten up at the poll queue for daring to question the movement of outsiders. Seeing the sight of violence, we panicked and ran back to our home, only to cast our vote much later. However, on Saturday, there was no such violence and we voted in peace at the first attempt itself,” said Kalyan Chakraborty (83), a retired irrigation department official and perhaps the first resident of Salt Lake living at AB block since 1970.
As the day progressed women came out to vote carrying toddlers in their arms or children cycling beside them, young voters came wearing fashionable clothes and stopped for a customary selfie with family or friends with the inked finger and elderly residents came in groups or families in the later morning and afternoon hours chatting among themselves.
The spirit of poll day was evident with excited voters ignoring physical discomforts or disabilities to come out and vote with their family upholding the spirit of democracy. 70-year-old retired KMDA official Prabir Chakraborty was just one of them who came to the poll booth at EE block with a bandaged head. “He fell down at the washroom four days back and broke his skull. He is still under painkillers and I asked him to skip voting on Saturday but he didn’t listen and came walking nevertheless even though he is in pain,” said his wife Nupur Chakraborty, who escorted him to the poll booth.
84-year-old Chhaya Saha of DA Block and 90-year-old Pachkori Bhakta of CJ Block were also the other spirited voter who ignored difficulty in walking and pain in knees as they stepped out to vote for the first time post Covid. “My family didn’t allow me to vote during the assembly election. But I couldn’t miss casting my vote again,” said Saha.
However, even as the majority of residents spoke of smooth and peaceful voting across the township, there were sporadic instances of irregularities as some candidates and party workers of CPM and BJP levelled allegations of false voting and outsiders’ infiltration at the wards to rig votes.
“I myself caught multiple fake voters red handed. While some of them fled, some even heckled us. TMC men were carrying a bunch of voter slips of residents who are either staying in other cities or are bedridden,” said veteran CPM leader Ramola Chakraborty standing outside a booth at Ward 32.
Similar complaints were also raised at booths of AG Block, FE Block, CF block and Duttabad as well. But none of the voters were disturbed or hurt anywhere.
Acting on the complaints, cops, however, arrested 47 persons over the day.