A HIGH voter turnout of 81 per cent was recorded in the byelections held in two Lok Sabha and one Assembly constituency in West Bengal on Saturday, while the Congress withdrew their candidate from the Monteswar Assembly seat in Burdwan accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress of “turning the elections into a farce”. Trinamool, however, denied Congress’ allegations and said the elections have been peaceful.
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An average of 81 per cent polling was recorded till 5 pm, with 77 and 81 per cent in Cooch Behar and Tamluk Lok Sabha constituencies and 86 per cent in Monteswar, the Election Commission said. “The average voter turnout has been 81 per cent. Whatever complaints we have received have been duly attended,” an EC official said.
Accusing Trinamool of “letting loose a reign of terror” in the bypolls in Monteswar, state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury announced in the afternoon that they were withdrawing their candidate Bulbul Ahmed Sekh. “They have unleashed a terror across Monteswar, they have turned the election into a farce. They are not allowing our polling agents to enter the booth, there is no use of fighting the polls. So, we have decided to withdraw our candidate,” he said.
When contacted, the EC said it has received a complaint from the Congress stating they want to withdraw their candidate. “We have forwarded the complaint to the district magistrate to look into the matter,” the EC official said.
The BJP, meanwhile, has alleged that one of their polling agents at Monteswar was kidnapped by Trinamool supporters. The ruling party has denied the allegation.
Monteswar Assembly seat was one of the 211 constituencies where Trinamool had won in the state elections held earlier this year. The bypolls was necessitated after the demise of MLA Sajal Panja. The ruling party has fielded his son, Saikat, from the seat.
In Cooch Behar Lok Sabha bypoll — necessitated by the death of Trinamool MP Renuka Sinha — CPM has alleged Trinamool supporters intimidated their workers by visiting their houses and asking them not to cast votes.
Before the Centre banned Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, the political narrative in these constituencies had revolved around the usual topics — development and corruption. All of that had changed since the announcement. For instance, in Tamluk, Trinamool has campaigned heavily on the issue. Trinamool MLA and candidate for Tamluk bypoll, Dibyendu Adhikari, said: “This anti-people decision of demonetisation has affected every citizen. The common man is suffering. Demonetisation has also impacted our campaign, as we couldn’t pay the decorators. What will the poor farmers do?” The Tamluk bypoll was necessitated after Trinamool MP Suvendu Adhikari resigned as an MP to join the state cabinet as transport minister.
While BJP has demanded repoll in several booths in all the three constituencies, Trinamool claimed the elections were peaceful. “The elections were peaceful. There have been no incidents of violence. People have voted in favour of the development that has taken place under regime,” party vice-president Mukul Roy said.
The counting of votes will take place on November 22.