Kolkata:Violence marred the first few hours of polling in West Bengal, where the fourth phase of elections is underway in eight Lok Sabha constituencies.
According to a senior election official, clashes broke out between the supporters of rival parties in Nanoor, Rampurhat, Nalhati and Siuri areas of Birbhum seat, injuring several people on the two sides.
In Dubrajpur area of the constituency, voters allegedly engaged in a scuffle with the central forces when they were barred from entering the booths with mobile phones.
Security personnel reportedly opened fire in the air to control the mob, following which polling was stalled in these booths, the official said.
The state election office has also received reports of violence from Jemua and Barabani areas of Burdwan East (SC) constituency, he maintained.
"In Barabani, BJP candidate and central minister minister Babul Supriyo's vehicle was vandalised allegedly by the workers of the TMC outside a polling station, while in Jemua, voters fled a polling station after being threatened by miscreants," he told PTI.
According to reports, Supriyo had a tiff with the polling officials inside a booth, following which TMC supporters attacked his vehicle.
Supriyo, on his part, said, "I visited Barabani to witness the poll process, but found that voters were not being allowed to exercise their franchise. Our fight is to establish democracy... It is shameful that I have to say this in a democratic country."
The senior election official gave assurances that measures were being taken to rein in poll-related violence.
"Polling was peaceful in the first two hours. However, news of clashes started surfacing from several areas thereafter. We have sought reports from each of these places.
Our officials are monitoring the situation and taking measures to conduct the election in a free and fair manner," he said.
In Birbhum constituency, the Election Commission has show-caused BJP candidate Dudh Kumar Mondal after he was seen talking over a mobile phone inside a polling booth, just before casting his ballot, the official said, adding that the presiding officer of the station has been removed.
Notably, the EC has put TMC's Birbhum president Anubrata Mondal under scanner after poll workers complained that they feel "threatened" by his presence.
Accusing the TMC of rigging the polls in almost every booth, BJP's Krishnanagar candidate Kalyan Chaubey said voters in several areas were not allowed to cast their ballots.
"The TMC goons have jammed the booths in Chapra, Dompukur and Hatisala areas of Krishnagar constituency. The central forces are guarding the booths and 100-metre radius around those centres, but people beyond that were being warned against casting their votes. I was also threatened by some of them," Chaubey said.
Rebuffing the charges, TMC Krishnagar candidate Mahua Maitra said the accusations were baseless and bereft of truth.
"As they (BJP) do not have a support base in the constituency, they could not appoint enough observers for the polling stations. Now, they are giving excuses They are baseless allegations," she added.
A total of 1,34,56,491 electorate will seal the fate of 68 candidates on Monday in eight parliamentary seats -- Baharampur, Krishnanagar, Ranaghat (SC), Burdwan East (SC), Burdwan-Durgapur, Asansol, Bolpur (SC) and Birbhum.
The EC has deployed 580 companies of central forces to man over 98 per cent of the polling booths in these constituencies to ensure free and fair polling. PTI