71% votes cast in West Bengal bypoll till 5 PM

71% votes cast in West Bengal bypoll till 5 PM, scuffle reported in some pockets

The final poll percentage at 6.30 pm will be available only on Sunday

Female voters show their identity cards as they stand in a queue to cast their vote during Santipur by-polls, at a polling station in Nadia. Credit: PTI Photo

A high voter turnout of nearly 71 per cent was recorded till 5 pm on Saturday in West Bengal's four assembly constituencies where bypolls were held, an official said.

Barring a few stray incidents, polling, which began at 7 am, passed off peacefully in all four constituencies, the Election Commission official said. According to the official, Dinhata registered 69.97 per cent turnout till 5 pm, Shantipur 76.14 per cent, Khardah 63.90 per cent and Gosaba (SC seat) 75.91 per cent.

The final poll percentage at 6.30 pm will be available only on Sunday. "Voting has been peaceful and there was no problem anywhere across the four segments," he told PTI.

Scuffle between TMC and BJP supporters was, however, reported outside a booth in Khardah, where saffron party candidate Joy Saha apparently caught hold of a "fake voter" and handed him over to the police. "

The man is a Bangladeshi infiltrator. He came here to cast his vote in favour of the TMC," Saha said. TMC candidate and state minister Sovandeb Chattopadhyay dubbed the allegations as baseless. Security personnel had to use baton to disperse the crowd outside the Khardah booth.

According to TMC members, deceased MLA Kajal Sinha's son, Arjodeep, was injured in the melee and had to be hospitalised.

The ruling party activists gheraoed Saha's car and staged a sit-in on G T road for some time. Kajal Sinha's death due to Covid-19 necessitated the bypoll in Khardah. TMC MP Sougata Roy claimed that Saha's security personnel assaulted Arjodeep.

"People of Khardah will give a befitting to the BJP for beating up Kajal Sinha's son. Joy Saha's security personnel mercilessly assaulted Arjodeep," Roy said.

During the day, senior CPI(M) leader Tanmay Bhattacharya had also claimed that his car was attacked when he was about to enter a party office in Khardah. He accused TMC activists of carrying out the attack, an allegation that the ruling party denied. Similar brawls among activists of rival political parties were also reported from Shantipur in Nadia district and Gosaba in South 24 Parganas district.

In Santipur, Nadia district, BJP's Jagannath Sarkar gave up his assembly membership to retain his Lok Sabha seat. Gosaba in South 24 Parganas fell vacant following the death of sitting TMC MLA Jayanta Naskar.

In Dinhata constituency of Coochbehar district, TMC candidate Udayan Guha accused Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nisith Pramanik of entering booth number 232 with armed guards.

"Such an incident has created a reign of fear in the area. This is unacceptable. We have complained to the EC," Guha told reporters.

Pramanik, whose resignation from the assembly led to the bypoll in Dinhata, denied the allegations as "politically motivated". The EC had ordered strict maintenance of Covid-19 guidelines during the by-elections to the four seats. It deployed 27 companies of central armed forces in Dinhata, 22 in Santipur, 20 in Khardah and 23 in Gosaba, an official said. 

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