Bengal Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: 78% voter turnout in fifth phase amid sporadic incidents of violence
Election HIGHLIGHTS: Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused CM Mamata Banerjee of trying to politicise the "unfortunate" death of five people at Sitalkuchi and asserted she, along with her nephew would be vanquished by the end of polling in the state.
Amit Shah, Mamata Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi. (File Photo)
Assembly Elections 2021 HIGHLIGHTS: The fifth phase of polling in West Bengal concluded on Saturday as the state registered 78.36 per cent voter turnout. However, the day’s polling was marred by sporadic incidents of violence reported from Shantinagar area of Bidhannagar, Siliguri, and Bijpur in North 24 Parganas.
Congress leader P Chidambaram has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of showing “shocking callousness” by addressing rallies in West Bengal “instead of staying in Delhi” to handle the Covid pandemic situation, PTI reported.
A delegation of BJP leaders, led by senior leader Swapan Dasgupta, urged Bengal Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab to take note of a purported audio clip — in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is heard proposing a rally with the bodies of Cooch Behar firing victims – as “such a move could lead to more tension” in the state amid the ongoing elections.
On the other hand, Mamata has alleged that her phone is being tapped and said she will order a CID probe into it. She also accused the BJP of being involved in the conspiracy as the saffron party “cannot match” the ruling Trinamool Congress’ campaigning on development programmes.
Polling ends in 45 Bengal constituencies in Phase 5; Voting spread in over 15,000 polling stations; strict Covid-19 protocols in place. Follow this space for the latest updates.
People at a poll BJP rally in West Bengal.
Safety and security arangements
After violence marred the fourth phase, which witnessed five deaths, including four in firing by CISF, security measures have been beefed up for this phase. According to the Election Commission (EC) at least 853 companies of central forces will be deployed to ensure free and fair voting. Apart from this, measures to ensure strict adherence of coronavirus protocols during the voting process will also be in place, an officer in the poll panel said.
Looking at the Covid-19 situation, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had Thursday urged the EC to consider conducting the polls in the remaining constituencies at one go. However, the EC on Friday clarified there will not be any rescheduling of the elections. "This meeting was not called to discuss rescheduling, though we had a request from one political party on that. (However) no decision was taken to reschedule the remaining three phases of polling," news agency PTI quoted a senior EC officer as saying.
Key players, parties
Prominent faces fighting it out in the fifth phase include Siliguri Mayor and Left Front leader Ashok Bhattacharya, TMC ministers Gautam Deb and Bratya Basu and BJP's Samik Bhattacharya.
The phase is crucial as the Trinamool Congress looks forward to better its 2016 tally of 32 seats, and a resurgent BJP aims at making clear inroads. The Left-Congress alliance, which had bagged 10 seats in the assembly elections five years ago, are putting up a fight to make a mark this time.
With the EC extending the 'silence period' from 48 to 72 hours in view of the Cooch Behar violence in fourth phase, campaigning for the fifth phase ended on Wednesday.
TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee held several rallies and roadshows in most of the seats going to the polls this phase, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah who led the campaign of BJP, which has emerged as the key contender of TMC this election. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too held two public meetings in north Bengal.
Addressing a public meeting in Darjeeling district, Amit Shah said his party would try to find a “permanent political solution” for the Gorkhas in Darjeeling hills once it comes to power in West Bengal. “Today, I promise that a permanent political solution to the Gorkha problem will be reached by the double-engine government of the BJP, which means a BJP government at the Centre and another one in Bengal. You will not have to resort to agitations anymore.”
It has been a longstanding demand of the Gorkhas living in Darjeeling district to have a separate state of ‘Gorkhaland’. In 2017, violent agitations were held in Darjeeling after the Mamata Banerjee government tried to impose Bengali language on Gorkhas.
While speaking to party workers in Kalimpong in north Bengal, Shah even assured that the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) would have no impact on Gorkhas. "Whenever it is done, not a single Gorkha will be asked to leave. The TMC is lying about the possible fallout of NRC on Gorkhas. This is being done to create fear among them,” alleged Shah.
(With inputs from PTI)
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