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60% polling in Jangipur amid boycott

Ananya Dutta
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Seat fell vacant after Pranab Mukherjee resigned from Lok Sabha to contest the Presidential poll

Long queue:Residents of Nabagram queue up for casting votes for the Lok Sabha by-election from Jangipur in West Bengal on Wednesday.Photo: SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH.
Long queue:Residents of Nabagram queue up for casting votes for the Lok Sabha by-election from Jangipur in West Bengal on Wednesday.Photo: SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH.

Polling in the Lok Sabha by-election from Jangipur, the former constituency of President Pranab Mukherjee, passed off peacefully on Wednesday with over 60 per cent of the electorate casting votes. The constituency had recorded 84.71 per cent polling in the 2009 general elections.

The by-election, held after the seat fell vacant when Mr. Mukherjee resigned from the Lok Sabha to contest the Presidential poll, was marked by boycott at several polling stations.

“There were 26 polling stations where boycott was observed. We had received information about more as the residents had written letters to the district administration stating the reason for calling for a boycott. The observers and election officials had visited these areas and managed to convince some to change their mind,” said Sunil Gupta, the Chief Electoral Officer of West Bengal, to The Hindu over phone from Kolkata.

Residents of Sahebnagar in the Jangipur Assembly constituency refused to cast votes alleging that successive governments and MPs had failed to address local issues such as building roads. “Their demands were not related to the election process so there was a limited role for election officials,” Mr. Gupta added.

While there were some who would not cast votes, a sizable portion of the electorate that has migrated to other areas in search of work would perhaps have voted had they been home.

Migration

Limited employment opportunities in Murshidabad district have forced thousands to migrate to Kolkata and beyond.

All four brothers of Kheya Let, a resident of Shamshabad in the Sagardighi Assembly constituency, left for Chennai three months ago to work as construction labourers. “They are scheduled to return home for the Durga Puja festival. Had the election been held later this month, they would surely have voted,” said Ms. Let while on her way to the polling booth.

“As far as I know, about a lakh people across Jangipur constituency are not here at the moment. Had they been here the polling percentage would surely have been higher,” said Abhijit Mukherjee, the son of Pranab Mukherjee and Congress nominee for the by-election.

He thanked the workers of all political parties, particularly the Congress, for ensuring that the polls were peaceful.

However, CPI (M) candidate Mujaffar Hossen alleged that the fact that polling did not take place at several polling stations was due to duress from party workers of the Congress.

“In the eight years that Pranab Mukherjee was the MP of Jangipur he made several promises to the voters such as building roads and ensuring development. None of them has been fulfilled and now the voters are angry,” Mr. Hossen alleged.

He said he would demand a re-poll at 10 booths, claiming that despite informing the Election Commission that there were irregularities in the polling process, no action was taken.

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