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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Assembly Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: Polling concludes, 79.79% voter turnout in Bengal, 75.04% in Assam

Assembly Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday morning urged the people of Assam and West Bengal to exercise their franchise in record numbers.

By: Express Web Desk | Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi |
Updated: March 27, 2021 10:21:52 pm
A voter showing ink mark after casting vote at Dhoska village in Purulia during the first phase of West Bengal Assembly election 2021, on Saturday, March 27. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Assembly Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: Voting was held in a total of 77 seats — 47 in Assam and 30 in West Bengal——in the first phase of polling for the 2021 Assembly elections. Overall, West Bengal recorded 79.79% voter turnout and Assam registered 75.04% turnout in the first phase of polling for the assembly elections.

Despite incidents of violence and scuffle in some areas of Bengal, the overall polling process remained peaceful, the Election Commission said. Purba Medinipur recorded the highest turnout at 82.51 per cent, followed by Jhargram at 80.56, Paschim Medinipur at 80.12 per cent, Bankura at 79.90 per cent and Purulia at 77.07 per cent.

In the Kanthi Dakshin seat of Purba Medinipur district, voters staged protests outside a polling booth over alleged malfunctioning of an EVM. The agitators claimed that the VVPAT slip showed results in favour of a particular party, no matter which outfit they voted for. The VVPAT machine was eventually replaced, an EC official told PTI.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of doing “vote marketing” during his two-day visit to Bangladesh, saying her party will complain about this to the Election Commission. She also called out her former aide Suvendu Adhikari, who is fighting the polls against her in Nandigram on a BJP ticket, a ‘traitor’ and accused him and his family of distributing money among people the night before polling.

Live Blog

Assembly Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: Voting in 30 West Bengal seats, and 47 Assam seats. Here are the HIGHLIGHTS.

19:49 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Mamata's purported audio clip seeking help from BJP leader to win Nandigram stirs row in Bengal

A huge controversy erupted on Saturday amid the polling for 30 assembly seats in Wes Bengal, with the BJP releasing an audio clip where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is purportedly heard cajoling a BJP leader from Nandigram to rejoin the TMC and help her win the seat.

Banerjee is pitted against her former protege and no the BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, the spring board that propelled her to power in 2011, dislodging the Lef Front from power after a 34-year unbroken rule.

A BJP delegation, led by party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, met the state's chief electoral officer and handed over the tape, claiming Banerjee was using her official position to influence the outcome o the bitterly contested assembly poll.

The ruling TMC questioned the genuineness of the audiotape, but asserted that since Pralay Pal was a former TMC leader who switched over to the BJP, there was nothing wrong with Banerjee trying to woo him back. (PTI)

18:36 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Congress-AIUDF alliance country's enemy, state advanced in all sectors under BJP rule: Sonowal

Slamming the Congress-AIUDF alliance as the country's "enemy", Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said if it is elected to power it will "endanger" Indians living in the state and strengthen illegal immigrants.

He expressed confidence that people will solidly back the BJP-led NDA in the polls due to its development and peace efforts. He also played down speculation about the next chief minister if the BJP-led alliance retains power, saying the state government worked like "team Assam" in the last five years and the party's goal is to win the polls.

The BJP's decision to not name its chief ministerial face has set off the speculation with Sonowal's powerful ministerial colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma being seen as another strong probable for the job besides him.

Sonowal told PTI that Assam has advanced in all sectors under the BJP rule, and the government has worked to unite all sections of society, resulting in durable peace. He asserted that the BJP, if elected to power, will establish an "error-free" National Register of Citizens, a poll promise of the party, to ensure that all Indians are included and no illegal immigrant finds its way in. (PTI)

18:33 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Activists of BJP, TMC clash in Nandigram, three injured

A clash broke out on Saturday between activists of the BJP and the TMC in Purba Medinipur's Nandigram constituency -- which is set to go to polls on April 1 -- leaving at least three persons seriously injured, a senior police officer here said.

Seikh Sufiyan, the election agent of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, however, claimed that goons hired by the BJP carried out an attack on the workers of the state's ruling party, a charge denied by the saffron camp.

"All three, who sustained injuries during the attack, are activists of the TMC. They were rushed to SSKM hospital in Kolkata. The condition of one of them has been stated to be serious," Sufiyan said. BJP goons have "let loose a reign of terror" in Nandigram over the past 15 days, he alleged.

Denying Sufiyan's allegation, the senior police officer said action was immediately taken to bring the situation under control and restore peace in the region.

Local BJP leaders, on their part, contended that the TMC men are trying to disrupt peace in the constituency --where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is locked in a fierce battle with protege-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari. (PTI)

17:33 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Assembly Elections Live: 79.79% voter turnout in Bengal till 5:30 pm, 72.16% in Assam

Till 5:30 pm, West Bengal recorded 79.79% voter turnout and Assam registered 72.16% turnout in the first phase of polling for the assembly elections.

17:05 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Voting till 5 pm: 70.53% voter turnout in Bengal, 64.88% in Assam

Till 5 pm, West Bengal recorded 70.53% voter turnout and Assam registered 64.88% turnout in the first phase of polling for the assembly elections.

16:17 (IST)27 Mar 2021
In pictures: 69.24% voter turnout in Purulia

Voters lined up in queue outside a polling stattion at in Purulia during the first phase of West Bengal Assembly election 2021 on Saturday, March 27. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

15:56 (IST)27 Mar 2021
West Bengal polls: 70.17% voting till 3 pm, huge turnout in East Medinipore

Voter turnout till 3 pm

East Medinipore - 70.38%
West Medinipur - 68.76%
Jhargram - 72.10%
Purulia - 69.24%
Bankura - 68.03%

15:53 (IST)27 Mar 2021
PM Modi went to Bangladesh for vote marketing: Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee in Kharagpur: In 2019 Lok Sabha polls when a Bangladeshi actor attended our rally, BJP spoke to Bangladesh government and cancelled his visa. When polls are underway here, you (PM) go to Bangladesh to seek votes from one section of ppl, why shouldn't your Visa be cancelled? We'll complain to EC."

"Sometimes they say Mamata has brought people from Bangladesh and did infiltration. But he (PM) himself goes to Bangladesh for vote marketing," she added.

15:48 (IST)27 Mar 2021
70.17% voter turnout in Bengal till 3 pm, 62.09% in Assam

Till 3 pm, West Bengal recorded 70.17% voter turnout and Assam registered 62.09% turnout in the first phase of polling for the assembly elections. 

14:50 (IST)27 Mar 2021
West Bengal polls: Sisir Adhikari casts his vote in Contai

Sisir Adhikari, father of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, casts his vote at a polling station in Contai during the first phase of West Bengal elections.

14:42 (IST)27 Mar 2021
TMC asks EC to bring back rule which allowed parties to appoint only locals as poll booth agents

A Trinamool Congress delegation, led by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay on Saturday urged the Election Commission to bring back the rule which enjoined upon political parties to appoint only people, registered as voters in an assembly segment where an election booth was located, as polling agents for that booth.

The rule had been relaxed last week to allow agents to be appointed from any part of an assembly constituency. Read More

14:02 (IST)27 Mar 2021
West Bengal records 54.90% voter turnout till 1 pm

West Bengal has recorded 54.90% voter turnout till 1 pm. Jhargram constituency registered the highest turnout at 59.23, followed by Purba Midnapur (57.82%), Bankura (57.27%), Paschim Midnapur (52.34%) and Purulia (51.39%).

12:09 (IST)27 Mar 2021
West Bengal polls: 36.09% voter turnout till 11 am; TMC accuses central forces of intimidating people

Under a massive security arrangement, polling for the first phase of the eight-phase Assembly Elections began Saturday morning with West Bengal recording 36.09% voter turnout till 11 am. In the first few hours of polling, the turnout was comparatively low.

Elections are being conducted in 30 Parliamentary constituencies, spread across five districts – Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Purba Medinipur (Part 1) and Paschim Medinipur (Part 1) districts.

Meanwhile, at many polling booths, the TMC has accused the central forces of not allowing people to vote and intimidating the voters. Such complaints emerged from Kanthi Dakhshin under East Medinipur and Garbeta in West Medinipur. Read More

11:31 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Cast vote against divisive forces to strengthen democracy: Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged voters on Saturday to cast their ballots against "divisive forces" to strengthen democracy as polling began for the first phase of the Assembly elections in West Bengal and Assam.

The Congress is contesting the West Bengal polls in a coalition with the Left parties and the Indian Secular Front (ISF). Elections to the 294-member state Assembly are to be held in eight phases starting Saturday, with the final round of voting scheduled to take place on April 29.
    
The Congress-led "Mahajot" alliance is seeking to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, which is voting in three phases starting Saturday.

10:59 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Assam records 9.47% turnout till 9 am

An estimated 9.47 per cent of the total 81.09 lakh electors exercised their franchise till 9 am in 47 constituencies of Assam where polling is underway with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in the first phase of elections on Saturday.
    
While the polling so far has been peaceful, some complaints of EVM glitches were lodged, an Election Commission official said. Long queues were seen outside polling booths with voters and election officials adhering to COVID-19 protocols. First voters in many polling stations were greeted with saplings. (PTI)

10:38 (IST)27 Mar 2021
West Bengal elections: 14.28% turnout till 9 am; CPI(M)'s Susanta Gosh heckled, EVM malfunctioning reported

The overall poll situation was peaceful in West Bengal with 14.28 per cent turnout recorded till 9 am, officials said. Elections are being held in 30 seats, most of which are in the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region, across five districts amid tight security.

Meanwhile, in the Salboni area of the same district, CPI(M) candidate Susanta Gosh was heckled and stones were hurled at his vehicle allegedly by TMC supporters, police said. As soon as he reached Salboni Bazar, some TMC supporters gheraoed and heckled him, following which they also attacked his car, eyewitnesses said. Police personnel posted in the area rescued and escorted him to safety. Some journalists who were reporting on the attack were also manhandled.
    
"This is an attack on democracy. This is jungle raj going on," said Ghosh, a former minister in the Left Front government.

An EC official said that three persons were arrested in connection with the incident and a report has been sought from the district administration. The TMC has denied any involvement.

Meanwhile, incidents of EVM malfunctioning were also reported from several areas. So far, 107 EVMs have been found to be non-functional, an EC official said. "Forty-seven EVMs have been restored by our sector officers and the rest are being mended," he said.

The Trinamool Congress said that a party delegation will meet the EC official at 12 pm over EVM malfunctioning in several booths. (PTI)

10:27 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Vote for progress, golden future of Assam: Priyanka to people

As polling began for the first phase of assembly elections in Assam, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Saturday urged the people to vote for progress and golden future of the state.
      
The Congress-led 'Mahajot' alliance is seeking to wrest power from the BJP in Assam which is voting in three phases starting on Saturday. The counting of votes will be on May 2.  
    
'Today, the first phase of polling is being held in Assam. I appeal to the people of Assam, especially the youth and my sisters, to go to the polling booths today and vote in large numbers,' Priyanka Gandhi said in a Facebook post in Hindi. 'Vote for progress and golden future of Assam,' said the Congress general secretary, who has campaigned in the state.

09:20 (IST)27 Mar 2021
EC vehicle set ablaze in West Bengal hours before first phase of assembly polls

A vehicle hired for poll duty was set ablaze at Bandwan in Purulia district on Friday night, hours before the first phase of assembly elections get underway, official sources said.

The vehicle was reportedly on its way back after dropping election officials at a polling station, when it was set on fire at Tulsidi village in the once-Maoist-affected 'Jangalmahal' belt of the state, they said.
    
According to eyewitnesses, the vehicle was stopped by a few persons who emerged out of the forests all of a sudden and allegedly threw a petrol-soaked material on it, before fleeing. No one was injured in the incident, the sources said. (PTI)

09:15 (IST)27 Mar 2021
Voters being influenced, stopped from voting: Suvendu Adhikari's brother

Soumendu Adhikari, BJP leader and brother of Suvendu Adhikari on Saturday told ANI that voters are being influenced and stopped from voting at booth number 149. He also said that EVM malfunctioning is being witnessed at some locations, adding that the Election Commission is looking into it.

Nandigram BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari had on Friday written to the Election Commission, seeking suspension of Haldia Additional SP Partha Ghosh, Haldia SDPO Barunbaidya and some other officers of Nandigram Police Station "for helping TMC members in carrying out malpractices, irregularities during polls".

08:47 (IST)27 Mar 2021
TMC workers trying to create disturbance in rural areas: BJP candidate from West Midnapore

BJP candidate from Bengal's West Midnapore, Samit Das casts his vote at a polling booth there.

Speaking to ANI, he said voting is underway smoothly in Midnapore town, but alleged that "at some places in rural areas, TMC workers were trying to create disturbance."

Over 73 lakh voters to decide the fate of 91 candidates in 30 seats in Bengal

As Bengal gears up for a tough triangular contest between TMC, BJP and Congress-Left alliance, more than 73 lakh voters will decide the fate of 91 candidates who are in the fray from the 30 assembly constituencies, most of which comprise the once-Naxal-affected Jungle Mahal region in the first of the total eight-phase elections.

The polls will be held under tight security with the Election Commission deploying around 684 companies of central forces to guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said. In addition, the state police will be deployed at strategic locations, they added.

In Phase 1, polling will take place maintaining strict Covid-19 protocols in all nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram, six in Paschim Medinipur, and the seven seats in Purba Medinipur –– the home ground of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.

The TMC and BJP have fielded candidates in 29 seats each, while the Left-Congress-ISF alliance has put up candidates in all 30 seats. In 2016, TMC had won 27 out of 30 seats while two were bagged by Congress and one by RSP. However, the equations changed after BJP made clear inroads in the tribal-dominated Jungle Mahal region, winning all five Lok Sabha constituencies –– Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Medinipur and Bishnupur in 2019.

Key constituencies in Bengal

In Jhargram, 11 paramilitary personnel –– highest for any election in the state so far –– will be deployed per booth, officials said. "Declaring all 1,307 booths in 1,010 premises as Left Wing Extremist (LWE) areas in Jhargram, we have decided to deploy 127 companies of the central forces only for booth management," an EC official told PTI.

With Suvendu Adhikari, once a confidante of Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, and his father Sisir Adhikari crossing over to BJP, Kanthi Dakshin seat in Purba Medinipur will be a seat to watch out for in this phase. The constituency had been held by the Adhikari family from 2001 till 2017 when then sitting MLA Dibyendu Adhikari, brother of Suvendu left the seat to represent the party in Parliament. This time, TMC has pitted Jyotirmoy Kar against Arup Kumar Das from BJP and Anulup Panda from CPM.

The TMC has fielded actor June Malia, a known face in the Bengali film and television industry, from the Medinipur seat against BJP's Samit Kumar Dash. The Left-led alliance candidate is Tarun Kumar Ghosh of the CPI.

Apart from fielding its candidates in 29 of the 30 seats, TMC is supporting an Independent in the Joypur assembly segment in Purulia after the nomination of its official candidate Ujjwal Kumar was rejected by the EC due to a discrepancy. The party is now backing Dibyajyoti Singhdeo, known to be a disgruntled TMC leader who filed the nomination as an Independent and is up against BJP's Narahari Mahato, who is a former Forward Bloc MP.

While state Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself campaigned in most of the seats going to polls in this phase, BJP's election bandwagon was led by PM Modi who took part in several rallies in the past few weeks.

Polling in the remaining seven phases will take place on April 1, April 6, April 10, April 17, April 22, April 26 and April 29. Results will be declared on May 2.

47 constituencies to go polls in Assam; CM Sarbananda Sonowal in fray from Maujli

Assam too is set to witness mostly direct or triangular contests between the ruling BJP, its alliance partner the Asom Gana Parishad, opposition Congress and the newly formed Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) in the first of a three-phased election to its Assembly. A total of 264 candidates, including 23 women, are in the fray for the 47 constituencies going to polls on Saturday amid strict security and COVID protocols.

The stage is all set for the polls, beginning at 7 am and ending at 6 pm, with the timing extended by an hour to ensure that COVID protocols are maintained.

Central security forces have been deployed for the first phase to prevent any untoward incidents. Strict patrolling is being carried out along with a vigil in critical areas in all the constituencies, the officials said. Preparations are in full swing with poll and security personnel leaving for the polling booths, spread across 12 districts of Upper Assam and the Northern Bank of the Brahmaputra, they added.

The ruling BJP is contesting in 39 seats while its alliance partner the AGP in ten seats, with the two parties going to engage in a friendly contest in Lakhimpur and Naharkatiya constituencies. The opposition 'Grand Alliance' is contesting in all the seats, with the Congress putting up candidates in 43 constituencies and the AIUDF, CPI(ML-L), RJD and Anchalik Gana Morcha (contesting as independent) in one seat each. The newly formed AJP is contesting in 41 seats while there are 78 independents which include 19 independents of the other new party- Raijor Dal.

Key constituencies in Assam

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal's fate will be decided in the first phase from Majuli (ST) seat where he is locked in a direct contest with three-time former Congress MLA and former minister Rajib Lochan Pegu. Speaker of the outgoing assembly Hitendranath Goswami is also engaged in a direct contest with former Congress MLA Rana Goswami.

Another prominent constituency is Titabor, which had been held by former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for four consecutive terms. With his death, Congress has now fielded relatively little known candidate Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah against the former AGP MLA Hemanta Kalita.

Polling in the remaining seven phases will take place on April 1 and April 6. Results will be declared on May 2.

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