West Bengal Phase II sees 80% turnout

West Bengal Phase II sees 80% turnout

West Bengal Phase II sees 80% turnout

 The second phase of six-phase polling in the ongoing Assembly elections took place across several seats in North Bengal and Birbhum, among other places on Sunday.

While mostly peaceful, the BJP demanded re-polling in all 11 seats of Birbhum, amidst stray complaints of violence and electoral malpractices. The final poll percentage stood at 79.72% till end of day’s polling at 5 pm.

Polling in phase II took place at 56 seats across Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda in North Bengal, besides Birbhum in south Bengal. The results in Sunday’s polls will have a major impact on Trinamool Congress’s overall performance as the ruling party is not considered a strong entity across much of North Bengal. Sunday’s polling would also determine whether the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM), the dominant party at the Darjeeling Hills and a BJP ally, still has a hold over the Gorkha electorate.

The morcha is facing a challenge from Hadka Bahadur Chhetri, who broke away to form his own outfit and joined hands with the Trinamool. Analysts believe that if Chhetri’s win in even one of the three hills seats of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong will provide Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee a much-needed foothold in the hills. North Bengal districts witnessed overwhelming polling with poll percentage standing at nearly 71% by 3 pm.

Ace football player Bhaichung Bhutia, who contested on a Trinamool ticket from Siliguri, told reporters, “Voting has been peaceful. In football, the losing team makes all complaints and the same is happening in the polls in Bengal.” Bhutia is contesting a prestige fight for Mamata against CPM heavyweight and Siliguri Mayor, Asok Bhattacharya. The veteran Left leader said, “The Siliguri civic polls in 2015 have shown that the Trinamool can be defeated. Our victory in the civic polls has given a definite boost to CPM and Congress workers across Bengal during the Assembly polls.”

While North Bengal seems uncertain for the ruling party, Birbhum is a Trinamool stronghold and the party hopes to sweep all 11 seats in the district. The day’s focus, however, was more on the party’s district president, Anubrata Mondal, who added to his notoriety by defying the Election Commission’s order of not leaving his hometown of Bolpur, after Opposition parties said he was trying to intimidate voters. The poll panel lodged an FIR against Mondal on Sunday after he entered a polling booth wearing a Trinamool badge.

The BJP, which demanded re-poll in all 11 seats, will be lodging a formal complaint with the EC against “serious violation in electoral norms”, said senior party leader Sidharth Nath Singh.

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