Bhabanipur bypoll: 53.3% polling till 5pm in Mamata's seat

Paramillitary jawans stand guard at a polling station (left), police personnel check a vehicle in Kolkata (right). Photos: PTI

Kolkata: Voting has largely been peaceful in Bhabanipur assembly seat, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting, with 53.32 per cent turnout till 5 PM on Thursday, officials said.

A high voting rate at 78.60 per cent and 76.12 per cent was recorded in Murshidabad's Samserganj and Jangipur seats respectively, where polls had to be countermanded during the April-May assembly elections following the death of two candidates.

A total of 6,97,164 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the three constituencies.

Earlier, Bhabanipur had recorded the lowest polling percentage among three assembly by-elections in the state in the first two hours of polling.

Banerjee, who is also the Trinamool Congress supremo, is pitted against BJP's Priyanka Tibrewal and CPI(M)'s Srijib Biswas in Bhabanipur.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC candidate from Bhabanipur constituency Mamata Banerjee during her Assembly By-election campaign in Kolkata. Photo: PTI

According to the data available with the Election Commission of India, the high-profile assembly constituency recorded only 7.5 per cent of polling in the first two hours of election. On the other hand, the two assembly constituencies of Jangipur in Murshidabad district and Samserganj recorded 17.5 and 16.3 per cent polling respectively.

Though there was a peaceful election in Murshidabad district, the opposition in Bhabanipur alleged that the ruling Trinamool Congress was violating rules on several occasions in the constituency.

BJP candidate Priyanaka Tibrewal said, "There was unlawful assembly in several areas of the constituency. I have complained to the police but they are not taking any step". Tibrewal was even seen getting engaged in a verbal debate with the state police personnel on duty in the constituency.

BJP's candidate from Bhabanipur constituency Priyanka Tibrewal shows victory sign during her campaign. Photo: PTI

CPM candidate Srijib Biswas said, "You won't find flags and banners of the opposition near the polling stations but there are flags of Trinamool Congress within 200 metres of the booth. I have told the police but they are hardly paying any attention".

Polling began at 7am amid tight security in Bhabanipur.

A total of 6,97,164 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the three constituencies.

Votes will be counted on October 3.

Banerjee, who lost from the Nandigram constituency in the assembly elections earlier this year, has to win this by-poll to retain the chief minister's post.

Polls had to be countermanded in Jangipur and Samserganj in April following the death of two candidates.

Unprecedented security

The Election Commission has decided to deploy additional 20 companies of central forces, taking the total to 35 companies, only for the bypoll to the Bhabanipur Assembly constituency.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were also imposed within 200 m of the polling centres.

According to Election Commission officials, the additional 20 companies of central forces will be deployed for patrolling duty, because there has been widespread allegation that the ruling Trinamool Congress is threatening the voters, trying to stop them from going to the polling centres.

"The additional companies will also be deployed to prevent any kind of unlawful gathering and untoward situation," an EC official said.

Though as many as 2,250 state forces personnel have been deployed for the bypoll, they are not be deployed inside the polling stations.

Besides declaring all the 287 booths as 'sensitive', the Election Commission deployed a micro-observer each in all the booths.

Two strong rooms to store the EVMs have been set up at the Sakhawat Memorial Govt Girls' High School on Lord Sinha Road.

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