West Bengal Assembly polls | State gears up for counting across 108 centres

The Election Commission of India has made elaborate arrangements for counting of votes for West Bengal Assembly election on Sunday. There are 108 counting centres across the State where counting will start at 8 a.m. Across these centres, counting will be carried out in over 700 halls.

The Election Commission has specified seven tables for smaller counting halls, and up to only 14 tables in bigger halls for counting of the votes polled in the EVMs.

Counting will be held for elections on 292 of the 294 seats to decide the fate of 2,116 candidates. Elections to two seats — Shamsherganj and Jangipur in Murshidabad district — has been postponed following the death of candidates. Elections to the 292 Assembly seats across 23 districts of West Bengal were held in eight phases across from March 27 to April 29.

The ECI has made arrangements for a three-tier security at each of 108 counting centres. The premises will be guarded by personnel of the West Bengal police and central armed police forces. Every counting agent has to produce a COVID-19 negative certificate before entering the counting centres. About 30% of counting staff have been kept as reserve. ECI officials said that considering the COVID outbreak, this year there are more EVMs and counting centres and the announcement of results may be delayed.

Even hours before the counting begins, reports of sporadic violence have been received. Supporters of Trinamool Congress and BJP clashed at Katwa in Bardhaman. At Narendrapur in State’s South 24 Parganas, two personnel of the bomb disposal squad sustained serious injuries while diffusing crude bombs. The bombs were being carried in an ambulance and intercepted by locals.

Bengal polls: 205 candidates will fight it out at 31 seats in third phase

Swapan Dasgupta, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member who resigned from the Parliament to contest the local elections, is contesting against the TMC’s Ramendu Singha at the Tarakeshwar seat in Hooghly district.

In more than 20 of the 31 assembly seats that go to the polls in the third phase in West Bengal on Tuesday, the contest between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will be close because of the demographics of these constituencies and strong presence of the ruling party.

The polls will be held in Hooghly, South 24 Parganas and Howrah districts. Out of the 205 candidates in the race, only 13 are women. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has deployed more than 62,000 central armed police personnel for the third phase.

Like the second phase, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) will be enforced around the 10,871 polling booths in the three districts on Tuesday to stop assembly of more than four people.

The number of electors in the third phase is 78,52,425 of whom a little less than half are women while 243 belong to the third gender.

In Hooghly district, where eight seats go to the polls, the BJP made sizeable inroads in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Actor-turned-politician Locket Chatterjee managed to wrest the Hooghly Lok Sabha seat while the BJP lost the Arambagh seat by about a thousand votes only.

Chatterjee, who is one of the four BJP Lok Sabha members contesting in the eight-phase elections, has been fielded from the Chinsurah assembly seat which is part of her Lok Sabha segment.

Having promised to enforce the new citizenship law in Bengal if it comes to power, the BJP has set its eyes on the scheduled caste population, for whom the Dhaniakhali, Goghat and Arambagh seats are reserved.

Arambagh is likely to witness the most fierce contest, all parties say. The TMC has fielded Sujata Mondal Khan, the estranged wife of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) state president and Lok Sabha member Saumitra Khan from this seat. Sujata Mondal Khan joined the TMC in December after her husband sent a legal notice for divorce following a marital dispute. He announced his decision during a press conference, making the incident a first of its kind in Bengal politics.

Swapan Dasgupta, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member who resigned from the Parliament to contest the local elections, is contesting against the TMC’s Ramendu Singha at the Tarakeshwar seat in Hooghly district. “I tried to meet as many people as possible,” Dasgupta told the local media during a door-to-door campaign on Saturday.

Debjit Sarkar, the former state president of the BJYM, is contesting for the Jangipara seat. “I contested the local Lok Sabha seat but the situation is quite different now. I have felt the tension in some areas,” Sarkar, who could not win in 2019, told HT on Monday night.

In Hooghly district, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), is contesting only the Arambagh and Tarakeshwar seats.

In South 24 Parganas district, where as many as 16 assembly segments are going to the polls, several are part of the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency held by chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee. The TMC’s youth wing president held five rallies and roadshows as campaigning came to a close at 5 pm on Sunday.

The district, with 31 assembly constituencies, is a TMC stronghold. In the 2016 state polls, the ruling party won 29 seats. In 2019, when the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats and even made a dent in the adjacent North 24 Parganas district, voters in South 24 Parganas remained loyal to the TMC. Abhishek Banerjee won from Diamond Harbour for the second time by a margin of 3,00,000 votes.

Muslims comprise a sizeable section of the population in many assembly segments such as Canning East, Baruipur East, Baruipur West and Diamond Harbour. While this may make the contest easier for the TMC, since Muslims have backed the party consistently, allegations of corruption during distribution of relief for victims of cyclone Amphan has been made the main election issue by the BJP and the Indian Secular Front founded by cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui.

 

Magrahat East, Bishnupur, Mandirbazar, Joynagar, Basanti, Kultali and Canning West are reserved for scheduled caste candidates. In these seats, the Left parties had a strong presence till 2016 and the Marxists are desperate to make a comeback. At Raidighi, CPI(M) stalwart and former minister Kanti Ganguly, is contesting the seat again.

The CPI(M) is contesting nine seats in South 24 Parganas, including Kultali which witnessed violence in almost all elections in the past. On Monday evening, BJP and TMC workers exchanged allegations of violence at Kultali.

In Howrah, where the TMC has a strong presence, only seven seats are going to the polls. Out of these, the BJP intends to put up a tough fight at Udaynarayanpur, Jagatballavpur, Uluberia North and Uluberia South although the size of the Muslim population in these zones can make things difficult for the saffron camp.

Actress Tanushree Chakraborty, who joined the BJP in March, has been fielded from Shyampur.

The ECI has organised the International Virtual Election Visitors Programme (IEVP) 2021 for foreign election management bodies during the elections in four states and Puducherry on Tuesday.

“The ongoing elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have an electorate of over 187.2 million, one of the largest in the world to vote so far amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a good opportunity to share our best practices and experience of conduct of our poll process as well as steps taken to mitigate the effect of pandemic,” the ECI said in a statement.

Over 106 delegates from Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nepal, Panama, Philippines, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Suriname, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zambia are going to participate in IEVP 2021, the statement added.

Assembly Elections 2021: BJP announces 3 candidates for Assam, 2 for West Bengal

NEW DELHI, March 10: The BJP on Wednesday announced the names of three candidates for Assam and two for West Bengal Assembly polls. Polling will be held in the second phase on April 1 on these five seats in two states.

In a statement, the BJP said that the party’s Central Election Committee has approved names for five seats in two states.

The BJP fielded Milan Das from Hailakandi, Paramananda Rajbongshi from Sipajhar and Ramakrishna Ghosh from Hojai in Assam.

In West Bengal, the BJP fielded Hiranmoy Chattopadhyaya from Kharagpur Sadar and Supriti Chatterji from Barjora.

Also Read: Assam Assembly polls: PM Modi, Shah, Nadda among 40 star campaigners of BJP

West Bengal Assembly elections | Mamata Banerjee files nomination from Nandigram

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday filed her nomination from Nandigram to contest the Assembly poll.

Ms. Banerjee was accompanied by Trinamool Congress State president Subrata Bakshi at the office of Subdivisional Officer (SDO), Haldia.

Before submitting her nomination, she held a road show for about a kilometre to the SDO office. Thousands of people took part in the event, which saw posters with the Trinamool Congress’s new slogan “Bangla Nijer Mein kei Chai” (Bengal wants its own daughter). Earlier in the day, the Trinamool chairperson visited a temple in Nandigram.

“Nandigram is not a new place for me. When Nandigram was in the grip of violence, many brave leaders of Medinipur did not come out of their houses. But I was always there,” Ms. Banerjee said, taking a swipe at political opponent Suvendu Adhikari.

The Chief Minister said that she always dreamt of contesting from Singur or Nandigram, the two places synonymous in the fight against forcible land acquisition.

The Nandigram contest is key in West Bengal, with Ms. Banerjee pitted against former aide Mr. Adhikari of the BJP.

Mr. Adhikari also held a rally in Nadigram and said that he will file his nomination on March 12. The Assembly seat located in Purba Medinipur will go to the polls on April 1.

Input: thehindu

 

Also Read: Assam Assembly polls: PM Modi, Shah, Nadda among 40 star campaigners of BJP