WB by-polls peaceful, record 68% voter turnout



Kolkata: By-elections to Bhowanipore Assembly seat, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in the fray, and Basirhat North constituency saw an average turnout of about 68 per cent.

The by-poll to the Bhowanipore seat was necessitated after a sitting MLA of Trinamool Congress resigned to make way for the Chief Minister to contest, as she is not a member of the state legislature.

"The polling was peaceful. There is no report of any law and order problem, or any irregularity for which re-polling can be asked for. There is no report of vote boycott from anywhere," Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta told newsmen.

Voter turnout of 80.35 per cent was recorded in Basirhat North and 49.32 per cent in Bhowanipur, Gupta said, adding that the percentage is likely to increase as voters were in the queue at many booths well past 5 pm when polling was scheduled to end.

"It can be said from past experience that the increase may be by another two to four per cent," the CEO said. The Electronic Voting Machines had to be replaced in booth number 11-A and 12 in the Basirhat North constituency, he said adding there was no other major complaint regarding the EVMs.

The Bhowanipur seat saw a six-cornered contest with the main fight between Banerjee and CPI(M)'s Nandini Mukherjee. In Basirhat North, where six candidates were in the fray, the fight was between A T M Abdullah of Trinamool Congress and CPI (M)'s Subid Ali Gazi.

By-poll to Basirhat North became necessary following the death of sitting MLA Mustafa Bin Qasem.

Some of Banerjee's cabinet colleagues, including PWD Minister Firad Hakim and Sports Minister Madan Mitra, besides government chief whip Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, cast their votes in Bhowanipore.

A large number of voters cheered Banerjee when she arrived at the polling station at Mitra Institution to cast her vote around 4.25 PM.

Gupta said adequate security arrangements had been made with the Central armed police force personnel deployed at all polling stations and premises. Personnel of the West Bengal police were also deployed in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

Besides, one general observer and an expenditure observer for each of the two constituencies, micro-observers were deployed in the sensitive 175 booths across the two seats.

As many as 107 preventive arrests were made over the past one month and another 491 people were arrested under various sections of the CrPC, Gupta said adding that 1,288 non-bailable warrants were also executed.

In pre-election raids, the police recovered 41 unlicensed firearms, 59 cartridges and 23 explosives, he said.

Counting of votes will be taken up from 8.00 AM on September 28.

PTI