The Assembly by-poll in West Bengal in four seats including Dinhata (Cooch Behar district), Santipur (Nadia district), Khardaha (North 24-Parganas) and in Gosaba (South 24-Parganas) concluded peacefully barring few stray incidents of clash and mismanagement in some of the booths on Saturday.
Polling began at 7 am in all four seats and till 5 pm Dinhata registered 69.97 percent turnout, while in Santipur, Khardah, and in Gosaba (SC) assembly seats, the polling was 76.14, 63.90, and 75.91 percent respectively.
Since morning, the Election Commission (EC) has made elaborate arrangements in terms of security and smooth execution of the poll process. The poll body has requested all the stakeholders to maintain COVID-19 protocols considering the rise in the number of infections among the people especially after the festive season in Bengal.
The poll panel has deployed 27 companies of central armed forces in Dinhata, 22 companies in Santipur, 20 companies in Khardaha and 23 companies in Gosaba. However, despite that minor disturbance was reported from Dinhata, Santipur and in Khardaha assembly seats.
At booth numbers 192 and 192 A in Khardaha, a group of TMC supporters raised go back slogans against the BJP candidate Joy Saha. The ruling party has alleged that Saha was roaming around (within the 100 metres of the polling station) with the BJP logo in his car. There was a huge ruckus in the same assembly seat after an alleged false voter was caught by Saha.
Saha alleged that the false voter belonging to the TMC camp tried to capture booths in the area. Situation aggravated when the alleged ‘booth capturer’ tried to flee but he was chased by the BJP candidate and the ‘booth capturer’ was caught and handed over to the paramilitary forces.
In the evening, once again the situation turned tense in Khardaha after BJP candidate Joy Saha alleged that TMC is engaged in false voting with the help of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
Before the polling started, Saha with folded hands was also seen interacting with a TMC leader Sayan Majumdar and he was heard requesting him to maintain the decorum of the poll process. Responding to Saha, the TMC leader was heard saying that they always maintain the decorum and this time too it will be maintained.
On booth capturing allegation, TMC candidate from Khardaha seat Sovandeb Chattopadhyay rubbished the allegations and said that the BJP candidate created a scene in the area to get mileage because he knew that he is going to lose the seat.
Meanwhile, CPIM leader Tanmoy Bhattacharya was also injured after he was caught in between a clash and hit by a brick. The Khardaha bypoll was necessitated following the death of TMC MLA Kajal Sinha. This time TMC has fielded Sovandeb Chattopadhyay from Khardaha against BJP’s Jay Saha. This is a prestige battle for the TMC because to make way for Mamata Banerjee – TMC MLA from Bhawanipur constituency, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay has resigned from the post.
In Dinhata, the BJP candidate Ashok Mandal alleged that TMC workers tried to stop him while he was going to cast his vote at booth number 291 at Dinhata High School. However, TMC workers accused him of using a mobile phone inside a polling booth.
Among all the four constituencies, Dinhata is the biggest one with 417 booths and the number of voters in this constituency is more than 298000. Maximum number of paramilitary jawans was deployed at Dinhata in Cooch Behar, which is close to Bangladesh border and a prestige battle for the BJP because it was won by Nisith Pramanik who is presently the Union Minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Pramanik is emotionally very much attached with Dinhata and somehow he managed to retain the seat with mere 57 votes against TMC’s Udayan Guha. He was one of the BJP MPs who had won the Assembly polls held this year but later resigned because they wanted to continue as an MP.
He didn’t even take oath as an MLA (after the poll result was declared on May 2) and this necessitated the by-poll in Dinhata. This time, the TMC has once again fielded Udayan Guha against Ashok Mondal (BJP).
“It is unfortunate that TMC goons threatened our supporters and booth agents. I have taken the matter before the EC and we are hopeful
Meanwhile, BJP candidate Ashok Mondal has written a letter to the Returning Officer against TMC candidate Udayan Guha for casting vote in a polling booth along with his grandson. He also alleged that a BJP agent at 7/176 number booth was roughed up by TMC goons for protesting against rigging. “We request the EC to take immediate steps to cancel his candidature and also strict action against the Presiding Officer and the entire polling staffs,” BJP leader Shishir Bajoria said.
Similarly, the Santipur by-poll was necessitated after Jagannath Sarkar who won the Santipur assembly seat (after defeating TMC’s Ajay De with more than 15000 votes), vacated it later to continue as an MP from Ranaghat Lok Sabha constituency. This seat in Nadia district is again a prestigious battle for the BJP (who fielded Niranjan Biswas against TMC’s Brajakishore Goswami, a member of the Vaishnav community) because it is the constituency where ‘Matua’ community is a decisive factor and they could turn the table for any political parties.
In Santipur, there are allegations of arson at the house of a BJP agent at Belgharia area and this forced his mother to lock him inside the house to prevent him from venturing out (sensing threat to his life).
The by-polling at Gosaba was more or less peaceful and it was held following the death of the TMC’s winning candidate Jayanta Naskar. The Gosaba Assembly seat is a reserved constituency (schedule caste) and it is a part of the Jaynagar Parliamentary segment. In Gosaba, BJP candidate Subrata Mondal has been accused of moving around with the party symbol during mock polling.
Keeping Naskar’s sentiments and his vision in the front, TMC has fielded Subrata Mondal against BJP’s Palash Raha from Gosaba and the ruling party is looking at a huge winning margin after TMC battled back with more than expected seats in the recently held Assembly Poll in the State.
The Election Commission also maintained that the polling process was overall ended peacefully in all four constituencies except isolated incidents involving leaders and supporters from both the BJP and TMC parties. The counting of votes in all the four constituencies will take place on November 2.