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Bengal bypoll: Bhabanipur records 53.32% turnout; BJP, TMC lodge complaints with EC

CM Mamata Banerjee, who lost from the Nandigram constituency against her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, BJP, in this year's assembly elections, has to win this bypoll to retain her chair.

Voting in Bhabanipur Assembly constituency, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee contested from, was largely peaceful with 53.32 per cent voter turnout till 5 pm on Thursday, officials said.

The BJP, however, lodged a complaint with the Election Commission against state ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee after its candidate Priyanka Tibrewal accused them of “trying to influence” voters in Bhabanipur.

Terming the allegations “baseless”, Hakim said, “Does having tea at a roadside stall tantamount to influencing voters? The BJP knows it will lose the by-poll and are now making lame excuses.”

Tibrewal also alleged that the TMC forcibly stopped the voting process at a polling booth in ward number 72.

The TMC, on the other hand, approached EC with a complaint against Tibrewal accusing her of moving around with an entourage of 20 cars and intimidating voters, a charge denied by her.

The BJP later alleged that the party’s polling agents were not allowed entry inside several booths. Hakim said such claims were politically motivated. “If they don’t have the manpower to field polling agents, they could have told us. We would have provided them agents,” news agency PTI quoted him as saying.

A minor scuffle between the TMC and BJP supporters was reported outside a booth in Bhabanipur over claims of the ruling party bringing fake voters inside the polling station. However, security personnel present at the booth brought the situation under control.

Apart from Banerjee and Tibrewal, CPI(M)’s Srijib Biswas was also in the fray from Bhabanipur, a seat which has twice elected the Trinamool supremo and is considered her home turf. Banerjee, herself a voter of the constituency, cast her vote at Mitra Institution school in the area around 3 pm.

The chief minister, who lost from the Nandigram constituency against her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari, BJP, in this year’s assembly elections, has to win this bypoll to retain her chair.

While voter turnout at Bhabanipur remained low right from the start, higher voting turnouts were recorded in Murshidabad’s Samserganj (78.60 per cent) and Jangipur (76.12 per cent) seats, till 5 pm, respectively. Voting there had to be cancelled during the April-May assembly elections following the death of two candidates.

Voting in all three seats with 6,97,164 eligible voters started at 7 am amid tight security and stringent Covid-19 measures. To ensure watertight security and peaceful polling in Bhabanipur on Thursday, the Election Commission Wednesday decided to bring in 20 more companies of Central Armed Police Personnel. The results of the bye-elections will be declared on October 3.

59.72% voter turnout in Odisha’s Pipili till 3 pm

With 59.72 per cent turnout, voting in the Pipili Assembly bypoll in Odisha’s Puri district was peaceful on Thursday, Chief Electoral Officer S K Lohani said. “The polling so far has been completely peaceful. People are casting their votes adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. Security personnel are present in all the polling booths to ensure free and fair voting,” PTI quoted Lohani as saying.

The bye-election at Pipili was necessitated after the death of BJD MLA Pradeep Maharathy in October last year.

Polling officials said voting in some booths got delayed due to technical glitches in the electronic voting machines. People stood in queues outside polling centres, maintaining social distance according to the markings drawn on the ground. The administration deployed around 2,000 security personnel to ensure peaceful voting in Pipili, which has a history of poll violence.

Nearly 2.30 lakh voters sealed the fate of 10 candidates, including the ruling BJD’s Rudrapratap Maharathy, Ashrit Pattnaik of the BJP, and Congress nominee Bishwokeshan Harichandan Mohapatra — all of whom have cast votes in their respective polling stations.

Votes will be counted on October 3.

With inputs from PTI

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