The Bhabanipur by-election is crucial for Mamata Banerjee as she needs to get elected as an MLA by the first week of November to continue as the chief minister
Voters in large groups have cast their ballots in the by-elections to the Bhabanipur constituency in Kolkata, Jangipur and Samserganj in Murshidabad of the Indian state of West Bengal, to decide whether Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remains in the post.
The voting that started at local time 7am, continued till 6:30pm on Thursday amid huge turnout of voters, reported several media outlets.
Till 5pm (local time), Bhabanipur recorded a voter turnout of 53.32%. The figure in Samserganj was 78.60%, while in Jangipur it was 76.12%, according to Anandabazar Patrika.
Mamata, who is also the chief of Trinamool Congress or TMC, herself contested with the party ticket for the Bhabanipur seat, reported ANI.
She needs to get elected as an MLA by the first week of November to continue as the chief minister.
In the West Bengal Assembly elections held earlier this year, Mamata had contested from the Nandigram against her former aide Suvendu Adhikari. He had defected to the Bharatiya Janata Party before the polls. Mamata lost Nandigram to Adhikari by a margin of 1,956 votes.
For the Bhabanipur by-poll, the saffron party has fielded lawyer Priyanka Tibrewal against Mamata. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Srijib Biswas is also contesting the election.
More than three lakh people are eligible to vote in the bye-poll, NDTV reported. The counting of votes will take place on October 3.
Tibrewal, the BJP’s candidate, alleged that Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra wanted to capture a booth in Bhabanipur and had deliberately turned off the voting machine there, ANI reported.
“We are hoping for fair elections,” Tibrewal said. “Security deployment is very important. I will visit polling booths in the area today. The state government is in fear right now.”
The BJP’s candidate also accused the Trinamool Congress of paying some people to cast their votes for the ruling party.
“A man confessed to me that TMC paid him Rs500 to cast vote,” she alleged. “He was from Bansdroni. I have informed the authorities.”
In Bhabanipur, a minor scuffle also took place between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP workers, according to PTI. The BJP accused the ruling party of bringing fake voters inside the polling centre.
Meanwhile, the Indian Election Commission received 40 complaints regarding rigging, threats, and influencing voters, the Hindustan Times reported in the afternoon. The BJP had made 23 of the total complaints.
The TMC also registered a complaint with the poll panel against Tibrewal, accusing her of moving with an entourage of 20 cars and intimidating voters, PTI reported. Tibrewal has denied the charge.
On Tuesday, the commission had banned the gathering of five or more people under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Bhabanipur. The prohibitory orders will be in place till the end of polling.
Central forces have been deployed in Bhabanipur, Jangipur and Samserganj. Thirty-five companies have been sent to Bhabanipur.
The Election Commission has also directed the irrigation department to be alert because of the inclement weather, ANI reported. Polling stations have been asked to be ready with pumps to drain out water in case of heavy rain.