Updated: October 1, 2021 5:05:51 am
A modest turnout of 53.32 per cent was recorded in the by-election to Bhabanipur Assembly seat on Thursday from where Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee is contesting to continue as the chief minister of West Bengal.
While ruling TMC ministers and party workers left no stone unturned in Bhabanipur to increase the voting percentage — they feel that increased turnout would increase Mamata Banerjee’s winning margin — the two other Assembly seats, where polling was held on Thursday, reported much higher turnout.
Samserganj recorded 78.60 per cent voter turnout, while Jangipur 76.12 per cent till 5 pm, as per the Election Commission data. Elections to these seats were countermanded in the state Assembly polls earlier this year due to the death of the candidates. The voting was largely peaceful and no major incident of violence or electoral malpractice was reported, Election officials said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Kalyan Chaubey’s car was allegedly ransacked on Sarat Bose Road., Chaubey was working as the election agent of Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular candidate Satadru Roy.
The Kolkata Police submitted a report to the EC regarding the incident, following which the poll body rubbished the allegations of it being a political attack.
In Samserganj, bombs were allegedly hurled a few hours before voting started at 7 AM. The TMC has accused the Congress of carrying out the attack, a charge dubbed as baseless by the Congress.
TMC’s Samserganj candidate Amirul Islam was allegedly seen influencing voters outside a booth. “All votes should be cast in favour of Lakshmir Bhandar (a popular social welfare scheme of the state government),” he was heard saying.
The BJP lodged a complaint with the EC against him while the Congress demanded repolling in nine booths, claiming rigging.
The EC said that it received 97 complaints, out of which 91 has been quashed. Out of these 97 complaints, 85 were related to the Bhabanipur bypoll.
The BJP, meanwhile, lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against TMC ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee for allegedly “influencing voters” in Bhabanipur constituency. It also alleged that the TMC had brought in several fake voters to various polling booths.
Banerjee, who is a voter of Bhabanipur, exercised her franchise at Mitra Institution around 3 pm. Her nephew and TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee cast his vote at the same polling station around 4 pm.
BJP candidate Priyanka Tibrewal alleged that the TMC had forcibly stopped voting at a polling booth in ward number 72, and Hakim and Mukherjee were trying to influence voters. Later, Tibrewal alleged that TMC had brought in fake voters to several polling stations such as Khalsa Girls’ High School, Jewish Girls’ School, St. John’s Diocesan Girls’ Higher Secondary School and others.
“There are people from outside casting their votes in Bhabanipur. One of them was caught by us at Khalsa Girls’ High School. But a TMC leader took that person away from the spot while police remained mute spectators. The TMC is indulging in scientific rigging to win the election,” said Tibrewal.
In its complaint against Hakim and Mukherjee, the party asked the EC to keep them under watch at a police station outside the Bhabanipur constituency.
Reacting to Tibrewal’s statements, Hakim said the BJP was making baseless allegations. “There has been no violation… anywhere in the state. The BJP knows very well that their candidate will lose the election and is hence making such allegations. Now, they will say that their booth agents were prevented from entering polling stations. However, in reality, they don’t even have polling agents. So far, people have exercised their franchise peacefully in Bhabanipur,” Hakim added.
A minor scuffle broke out between TMC and BJP supporters outside a booth over claims of fake voters brought in by the ruling party. Security forces soon brought the situation under control.
The TMC also registered a complaint with the EC against Tibrewal for moving with an entourage of 20 cars and allegedly intimidating voters.
Earlier in the day, people had to wade through streets waterlogged due to incessant rain for two days in Kiddepore area to cast their vote. Outside St. Paul’s School, 40-year-old Akhrina Bibi said they had no option but to walk through the waterlogged street.
In Chetla area, Deblina Roy (20) could not hide her happiness. “In the last Assembly election, I cast my vote for the first time. Within six months, I am doing it a second time,” she said.
On her way to a polling station, 82-year-old Dolly Ghosh said she had consistently been voting for 50 years.
The counting of votes will take place on October 3.
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