Second phase voting.

Second phase voting.

Battle for Nandigram; high turnout in 2nd phase too; Bengal 80%, Assam 77%

Modi urges voters in Bengal, Assam to cast votes in record numbers

Agency Report | Kolkata/Guwahati | 1 April, 2021 | 11:00 PM

Over 82 per cent voter turnout was registered in Bengal in the second phase of the Assembly election - 4.3 per cent less than in 2016. Assam registered a voter turnout of 77.2 per cent in the second phase today as opposed to 82.7 per cent in 2016. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of booth capture in Nandigram where she is contesting against her protege-turned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari. "...They didn't allow the local people to cast their vote. From morning I am campaigning...Now I am appealing to you, please see...," a visibly upset Banerjee was seen complaining to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over the phone. The Trinamool leader has also accused the Election Commission of not taking action despite a formal complaint by her party. "Have lodged 63 poll related complaints since morning, no action by Election Commission," Banerjee was quoted. Banerjee's party has accused the BJP of booth capture in Nandigram. "Huge mob of BJP workers have entered booth nos 6, 7, 49, 27, 162, 21, 26, 13, 262, 256, 163, 20. BJP workers attempting to take control of EVM & rigging the booth," Trinamool's Derek O'Brien has written to the Election Commission. The northeastern state of Assam - where the first phase of polls were held on March 27 along with Bengal - will also see high profile candidates, including a numbers of ministers in the outgoing government, among the 345 candidates in the battle for the 39 seats that go to polls in the second phase.

Amid reports of violence during the second phase of polling in West Bengal, about 80.43 per cent of voters exercised their franchise on Thursday, as per the Election Commission’s voter turnout app.

At the end of polling on Thursday evening, both the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress expressed confidence of sweeping the polls, including in high stakes Nandigram, from where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting against her once close aide turned adversary Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP.

As per the EC’s voter turnout app, the constituency wise voter turnout on Thursday was: Gosaba (79.85 per cent), Patharpratima (86.39 per cent), Kakdwip (76.17 per cent), Sagar (76.20 per cent), Tamluk (80.23 per cent), Panskura Purba (80.94 per cent), Panskura Paschim (81.67 per cent), Moyna (81.56 per cent), Nandakumar ( 82.36 per cent), Mahisadal (81.93 per cent), Haldia (80.45 per cent), Nandigram (80.79 per cent), Chandipur (81.15 per cent) and Kharagpur Sada (68.33 per cent).

Narayangarh (74 per cent), Sabang (81.23 per cent), Pingla (79.50 per cent), Debra (83.10 per cent), Daspur (71.20 per cent), Ghatal (76.29 per cent), Chandrakona (86.28 per cent), Keshpur (82.24 per cent), Taldangra (83.20 per cent), Bankura (72.86 per cent), Barjora (82 per cent), Onda (83.47 per cent), Bishnupur (82.95 per cent), Katulpur (87.21 per cent), Indus (86.57 per cent) and Sonamukhi (85.09 per cent).

Hours before the voting began, a Trinamool Congress worker, Uttam Golui, was hacked to death in Keshpur in West Medinipur outside a party office. The Trinamool has accused the BJP of murdering Golui.

Violence was also reported from some other parts of the districts. A woman polling agent of BJP at booth number 173 in Keshpur was allegedly beaten up by Trinamool workers.

BJP leader Tanmay Ghosh’s car was vandalised in the Keshpur assembly constituency, which was placed under heavy security after stones were thrown at the BJP candidate’s car.

Earlier, some CPI-M workers agitated at Ghatal after they were allegedly stopped by Trinamool workers when they were on their way to cast their vote.

The Election Commission of India has sought a detailed report from the district administration over the reported incident of violence in Boyal area in Nandigram where Mamata Banerjee paid a visit.

BJP supporters started chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans when Banerjee reached Boyal.

Meanwhile, After casting his vote, Suvendu Adhikari said, “I have a personal relationship with every person in Nandigram. I am pretty confident to win the elections.”

Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: “BJP and their mind games! Won’t work. Trinamool booth agents rock solid in 354 booths in Nandigram. We have registered complaints for 10 booths. All attempts by CRPF to influence/intimidate voters not working. People determined to have Mamata Banerjee as their MLA.”

His tweet followed his complaint to the EC: “Huge mob of BJP workers have entered booth nos 6, 7, 49, 27, 162, 21, 26, 13, 262, 256, 163, 20. BJP workers attempting to take control of EVM & rigging the booth.”

Banerjee is seeking a third term in office from Nandigram. In her first two terms as the Chief Minister, Banerjee had represented Bhowanipore in Kolkata.

For her and the BJP, the battle for Nandigram is a prestige fight because it was the 2007 agitation against land acquisition in the region which catapulted her to the Chief Minister’s post and to the centre stage of politics in the state, paving the way for the Trinamool’s victory in the 2011 Assembly polls that ended 34 years of Left Front rule in the state.

In the high stakes poll battle this time, a victory is a must for Banerjee so that she can lead the government and keep together her party, which is faced with exodus.

For Adhikari, it is a battle for political survival as a defeat would be a devastating blow and might also put a question mark on his political graph in his new party, the BJP.

A victory would not only establish him as one of the tallest leaders in West Bengal, but would also push him a few miles ahead of the others in the Chief Ministerial race in case the BJP is voted to power.

Polling took place amid strict Covid-19 guidelines in nine seats of West Medinipur, eight in Bankura, four in South 24 Parganas and nine seats in East Medinipur.

Of the 171 candidates in the fray in the second phase, 152 are male, 19 are female. Of the 75,94,549 voters, 38,80,955 were men and 37,13,508 were women, who cast their votes across 10,620 polling stations.

Nearly 700 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies were deployed in all the districts to ensure peaceful and fearless environment for polling.

As many as 77.21 per cent of the 73,44,631 voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of polling in Assam on Thursday, election officials said, adding that no untoward incident was reported from the 39 constituencies, where balloting ended at 6 p.m.

“The turnout of the electorate is 77.21 per cent. The percentage will increase a bit after the final compilation of reports from all the returning officers,” election officials said, adding that no incident of violence was reported so far from the 13 districts where the voting was peacefully.

In a few polling stations, voting was halted for some time due to technical snags in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which were soon rectified.

Men, women and first-time voters queued up in front of the polling stations in large numbers well before the voting began at 7 a.m. Polling time was increased by an hour till 6 p.m. by the election officials in view of the Covid-19 situation.

According to the Chief Electoral Officer of Assam, Nitin Khade, 73,44,631 voters, including 36,09,959 women, are eligible to cast their votes across 10,592 polling stations in the second phase that will decide the fate of candidates in 39 Assembly constituencies. As many as 556 polling stations are being managed by women officials.

Around 31,000 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel, along with thousands of state security force personnel, were deployed to maintain law and order during the second phase of polling in which 42,368 polling staff were engaged.

Meanwhile, Assam Minister and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam Congress President Ripun Bora and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) chief Badruddin Ajmal separately claimed that the outcome of the first two phases of the elections would go in their favour.

In Thursday’s polling, the electoral fate of 345 candidates, including 26 women aspirants, have been sealed.

In the second phase, the fate of several ministers, including Fisheries Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, MoS for Health and Family Welfare Piyush Hazarika, Irrigation Minister Bhabesh Kalita and Deputy Speaker Aminul Haque Laskar, will be decided.

Suklabaidya is contesting from Dholai for the seventh time on a BJP ticket, Hazarika from Jagiroad and Kalita from Rangia.

Former Congress minister Gautam Roy is contesting from Katigorah on a BJP ticket, while former Deputy Speaker Dilip Kumar Paul, who resigned from the BJP after he was denied a ticket and was subsequently expelled from the party, is contesting as an Independent candidate from Silchar.

Of the 39 seats, 15 fall in southern Assam’s Barak Valley region, comprising three districts — Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakhandhi — which are mostly dominated by Bengali-speaking people.

In 2016, the BJP had bagged eight of these seats, while the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won four seats and the Congress three.

The voters and poll officials have been directed to strictly follow all the Covid-19 protocols. The election officials said that to avoid crowding, the number of voters for every booth has been brought down to a maximum of 1,000. As a result, the number of polling booths has been augmented by 34.71 per cent to 33,530 in the entire state from 24,890 in 2016.

Of the three-phase elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly, the third and final phase of polling will be held in 40 seats on April 6. The results will be declared on May 2.

Nearly 80 per cent of 81,09,815 voters cast their votes on March 27 in the first phase of polling in 47 constituencies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed several election rallies in West Bengal and Assam, on Thursday urged voters of the two poll-bound states to cast their votes in record numbers and strengthen the festival of democracy.

Modi tweeted: “Urging the people of West Bengal in whose seats there is polling taking place today to vote in record numbers.

“The second phase of the Assam polls takes place today. Requesting all eligible voters of this phase to strengthen the festival of democracy by exercising their franchise,” the Prime Minister said in another tweet.

Among the Assembly polls in five states, West Bengal has the maximum number of seats and the highest phases staggered into eight, while polling is being held in Assam in three phases.

Along with Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, results would be declared in five states on May 2. (IANS)