Over 84 lakh voters in West Bengal will decide the political fate of 283 candidates, when 35 constituencies go to polls in the eighth and final phase, amid a raging second wave of COVID-19.
Security measures have been heightened in view of the violence in the previous phases, particularly the death of five people in Cooch Behar in the fourth round of polling on April 10, an Election Commission official said.
The poll panel has decided to deploy at least 641 companies of central forces, including 224 in Birbhum district, in the eighth phase to ensure free and fair voting, he said.
Voting will be held at 11,860 polling stations spread over 11 assembly constituencies each in Murshidabad and Birbhum, six in Malda and seven in Kolkata.
Meanwhile, the poll panel has placed Trinamool Congress Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal under strict surveillance till Friday 7 am, as the chief electoral officer in the state has received “several complaints against him”, the official said.
Here are the live updates:
Road accident sparks tension in Murshidabad
A man was killed and two others injured as a car hit them in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, triggering tension in the area hours ahead of the polling, police said on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
The incident happened in Shahbazpur village in the Domkal police station area around 10.30 pm on Wednesday, they said. The CPI(M) alleged that its member Kader Mondal (42) was killed, and Asim Al Mamoon (43) and Lal Chand Mondal (42) were injured after TMC candidate Jafikul Islam run his car over them.
Islam, the TMC’s Domkal candidate, rubbished the allegation, claiming that he was far away from the spot when the incident happened.
Police said an investigation has been started to identify those behind the incident.
The Chief Election Officer (CEO) sought a report from the district authorities over the incident. “We have asked the District Election Officer to send a report about the incident. Those behind this will be nabbed soon,” an official at the CEO’s office said.
The injured are undergoing treatment at the Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital.
Tension was palpable in the village following the incident. A huge contingent of central forces were deployed in the area to prevent any flare-up as polling started at 7 am, an officer said.
Follow Covid protocols while voting: PM Modi
With the eighth and last phase of the West Bengal assembly polls underway on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon people to cast their votes to enrich the festival of democracy while following Covid-19 protocols. “Last phase of the 2021 West Bengal elections takes place today. In line with the COVID-19 protocols, I call upon people to cast their vote and enrich the festival of democracy,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
Polling began at 7 am on Thursday, April 29, 2021, for 35 seats in the eighth phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal amid the rampaging second wave of COVID-19.
Long queues were seen outside most polling booths since early morning, raising concern over the spread of the infection even as the Election Commission said that all precautionary measures are in place.
The state registered its highest single-day spike of 17,207 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, while 77 more people succumbed to the disease.
Over 84.77 lakh voters will decide the political fate of 283 candidates in this phase.
The historical towns of Murshidabad, Malda may hold key to power in Bengal
Not many people visit the ruins of the old “Jafarganj Palace” or “Jafarganj Deorhi” in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district. The palace is often referred to as “Namak Haram Deorhi” or the “Traitor’s Gate” by locals because it was were Mir Jafar lived.
If there is one historical character whose name was dropped again and again in the political discourse during the 2021 Assembly polls in West Bengal, it was Mir Jafar, the military general of Nawab Siraj-U-Daullah who sided with the British. At almost every political rally, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called the leaders of her own party who had defected to the BJP “Mir Jafars” and ‘traitors’.
All eyes will be on Trinamool Congress Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal as he is under the strict surveillance of the Election Commission.
Mondal has been placed under surveillance till Friday 7 am, as the chief electoral officer in the state has received “several complaints against him”, an EC official said.
The TMC leader was placed under similar surveillance during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2016 assembly polls.
On April 5, hundreds of Trinamool activists gathered at the subdivisional office in Bolpur, Birbhum. They brought along with them brass bands and vehicles decked with balloons as State Minister Chandranath Sinha filed his nomination for Bolpur.
All COVID-19 safety norms were cast aside even as scores of police personnel stood outside the SDO office.
The pomp and show at the nomination centre, where a few hours later the BJP candidate also arrived, was in sharp contrast to the rural elections held three years ago when no candidate of the Opposition was able to file nomination papers in the area.
What prevented the candidates of the Opposition to file nomination papers in 2018 was unnayan [development by the TMC government] in the words of TMC district president and strongman Anubrata Mondal.
(With inputs from our Correspondent and agencies)