West Bengal Assembly Elections 2021 Highlights: Last phase of polls ends, over 76% voter turnout recorded till 5 pm
Firecrackers were set off outside Mahajati Sadan in central Kolkata on Thursday morning, which were initially alleged to be crude bombs, an EC official said. BJP candidate from Jorasanko, Meena Devi Purohit, had earlier alleged that a bomb was hurled at her vehicle.
Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Kolkata on Thursday. (Express Photo: Partha Paul)
West Bengal Elections 2021 Highlights: Voting in the last phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal has now ended. Stray incidents of violence were reported on Thursday from several areas but the overall polling process has been peaceful with 76.07% voter turnout recorded till 5 pm.
Firecrackers were set off outside Mahajati Sadan in central Kolkata on Thursday morning, which were initially alleged to be crude bombs, an EC official said. The incident, which happened on Central Avenue in the heart of the city soon after polling began in the area, triggered panic among the people. “Preliminary probe revealed that banned firecrackers were set off and not bombs,” the official at the Chief Electoral Officer’s office said, PTI reported.
Soon after the incident, BJP’s Jorasanko candidate Meena Devi Purohit alleged that crude bombs were hurled at her vehicle while she was touring different polling booths. “They tried to kill me. It is a ploy to scare the voters,” Purohit alleged. No one was injured in the incident.
Voting for the last phase of the Assembly polls in West Bengal started at 7 am amid a spike in Covid cases in the state. A total of 35 constituencies spread across districts of Malda, Murshidabad, Birbhum, and north Kolkata will decide the political fate of 285 candidates.
Voting for the last phase ends; Stray incidents of violence reported from several areas; 76.07% voter turnout recorded till 5 pm. Read highlights below
Polling officials carry ballot boxes at Berhampore in Murshidabad district. (PTI)
The last phase of the election is being held amid an unprecedented Covid spike. The state logged 17,207 fresh cases on Wednesday, the highest-single day spike recorded so far, pushing the tally to 7,93,552, a bulletin issued by the health department said. The death toll climbed to 11,159 with 77 more fatalities which is also the maximum count during a day, it said.
Over 84 lakh electors will cast their votes at 11,860 polling stations during this phase. The focus will be on five seats in north Kolkata — Beleghata, Jorsanko, Shyampukur, Maniktala and Kashipur-Belgachia — where a neck-and-neck contest is expected between TMC and BJP.
Three-cornered fights expected in Malda and Murshidabad
Three-cornered contests are expected in many of the 17 constituencies in Malda and Murshidabad districts where the Left-Congress-ISF combine has a stronghold apart from the TMC and the BJP.
Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the death of five people in Cooch Behar in the fourth round of polling on April 10. The poll panel has decided to deploy at least 641 companies of central forces, including 224 in Birbhum district.
Birbhum will be in focus because the district’s TMC president has been placed under surveillance by the Election Commission till 7 am on Friday. The decision was taken after the chief electoral officer in the state received "several complaints against him", an EC official was quoted as saying by PTI.
The TMC leader was placed under similar surveillance during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2016 assembly polls.
The polls on Thursday will bring the curtains down the marathon eight-phase election in West Bengal. The seventh phase of polling had recorded the lowest voter turnout (75.06 per cent). The Covid impact on voters was more visible in South Kolkata, which recorded 59.91 per cent voting.
Trinamool Congress Wednesday hit out at the BJP-led government at the Centre and EC saying they have "the blood of Covid-19 patients on their hands" as they refused to consider the serious threat of coronavirus and contributed to the "super spread" of the pandemic in West Bengal during the month of April.
The Madras High Court has said that the Election Commission is “the only institution responsible for the situation that we are in today” and murder charges should probably be imposed on the poll watchdog.
The EC has banned victory rallies on May 2 and made it mandatory for all contesting candidates and their polling agents to either test negative for Covid-19 or show proof of having received both doses of vaccines to enter the counting centres.
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