Updated: March 27, 2021 10:28:45 pm
West Bengal on Saturday recorded nearly 80 per cent of voter turnout while Assam saw an estimated 77 per cent turnout in the polling for the first phase of Assembly elections, the Election Commission (EC) said. Voting was held in a total of 77 seats spread across both states.
In Bengal, polling was held in 30 seats— several of them part of the once-Naxal-hit Jangalmahal region— amid tight security and strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines, EC official said. Although the overall poll situation was largely peaceful, sporadic incidents of violence were reported from various places that went to the polls.
BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s younger brother Soumendu alleged that he was attacked in Kanthi by TMC supporters. He also alleged that his car was vandalised and his driver was injured in the attack. The Kanthi seat also saw voters staging protests outside a polling booth over an alleged malfunctioning of an electronic voting machine (EVM). The agitators blocked a road outside a polling station at Majna, claiming that the VVPAT slip showed results in favour of a particular party, no matter which outfit they voted for.
In the Salboni seat of Paschim Medinipur, CPI(M) candidate Susanta Ghosh was heckled and stones were hurled at his car allegedly by TMC supporters, the police said.
Of the 30 seats that went to the polls, nine are in Purulia, four each in Bankura and Jhargram, six in Paschim Medinipur, and seven in high-stakes Purba Medinipur district.
In Assam, where 47 Assembly seats went to polls, the Election Commission said polling was overall peaceful although a few complaints of EVM glitches were lodged. The fate of 264 candidates including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami, state Congress president Ripun Bora and jailed anti-CAA activist Akhil Gogoi was sealed in the first of the three-phase election for the 126-member assembly in the state
While Assam is likely to witness a triangular contest between the ruling BJP-AGP alliance, the Congress-led opposition grand alliance and the newly formed AJP, polls in Bengal will determine whether CM Mamata Banerjee will return to power for the third consecutive time. While Bengal is voting in eight phases for 294 seats, Assam will vote in three phases for 126 seats. The votes will be counted on May 2.
Mamata’s purported audio clip seeking help from BJP leader to win Nandigram seat stirs row
A huge controversy erupted in West Bengal when the BJP released an audio clip where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is purportedly heard cajoling a saffron party leader from Nandigram to rejoin the Trinamool and help her win the seat.
Banerjee is pitted against her former protege and now the BJP candidate Suvendu Adhikari in Nandigram, the spring board that propelled her to power in 2011, dislodging the Left Front from power after a 34-year unbroken rule.
A BJP delegation, led by party general secretary and Bengal minder 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 of the bitterly-contested assembly poll.
The ruling TMC questioned the genuineness of the audio tape, 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.
PM Modi went to Bangladesh for vote marketing: Mamata Banerjee
In Kharagpur, CM Mamata Banerjee said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone to Bangladesh for “vote marketing”.
“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 people, why shouldn’t your Visa be cancelled? We’ll complain to EC,” she said.
CM Banerjee added, “Sometimes they say Mamata has brought people from Bangladesh and did infiltration. But he (PM) himself goes to Bangladesh for vote marketing.”
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 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.
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, 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.
Bandyopadhyay told reporters after meeting Chief Electoral officer Aariz Aftab that only locals, living in the assembly segment where the booth was located should be appointed as polling agents by parties “as was the practice earlier.”
“After representations by BJP, the Election Commission has changed the long-established tradition of asking parties to have polling agents from the same locality and this has caused a lot of problems in the booths in the first phase as many of the agents don’t even know each other,” he said.
Cast vote against divisive forces to strengthen democracy: Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged voters to cast their ballots against “divisive forces” to strengthen democracy. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who has been campaigning for the Assam polls, urged people to vote for progress and the golden future of the state.
In a Facebook post in Hindi, she urged the people of Assam, especially youngsters and women, to vote in large numbers.
“Do cast your ballot against divisive forces to strengthen democracy,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
Congress-led UDF has taken up the job of ‘hangman’ of KIIFB: Kerala CM
Sharpening his attack against the Congress and BJP in poll-bound Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the central agencies were carrying out “destructive activities” in the southern state and the opposition UDF was “playing musical instruments” to it.
Hitting out at the central agencies’ probe against certain state government projects, CM Vijayan alleged that the sangh parivar was using its power at the Centre to “destroy” institutions like the KIIFB, which undertook unprecedented infrastructure development activities in the state in the last five years.
Two days after the IT department carried out an inspection at the KIIFB headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, Vijayan alleged that the Congress-led UDF has taken up the job of “hangman” of KIIFB by placing noose around its neck.
(With inputs from PTI)