West Bengal Assembly polls fourth phase updates | 76.16% turnout till 5 pm; ECI orders re-poll at 1 polling station

Polling under way at 157-Metiaburuz Assembly Constituency on April 10, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Subham Dutta

Five people lost their lives in two separate incidents of firing during elections at Sitalkuchi Assembly in north Bengal on Saturday sending shockwaves across the State where voting for four more phases is yet to be held. 

Four persons were killed when central forces opened fire at polling booth number 126 at Amtali Madhyamik Siksha Kendra under Jor Patki gram panchayat at Sitalkuchi Assembly segment. The death triggered huge political reactions and elections at the polling booth were suspended. Superintendent of Police, Cooch Behar Debasish Dhar said that about 300 to 350 people including women attacked guards with crude weapons at the polling station after a rumour spread that security personnel have beaten up a person who had allegedly fallen ill.

 In another incident under the same Assembly constituency, an 18-year-old was killed when miscreants opened fire on him when he was returning from polling booth number 285 at Pathantuli under Bolenhati  gram panchayat.  Two persons have been detained in connection with the incident, Chief Electoral Officer, West Bengal Aariz Aftab said.

Here are the live updates:

7.13 p.m.

EC orders re-poll at 1 polling station

The Election Commission on Saturday ordered re-polling at one polling station in Cooch Behar after violence broke out during voting in phase four of the West Bengal Assembly elections.

The EC said polling was conducted at 15,940 polling stations in 44 Assembly constituencies and turnout was 76.16% as of 5pm.

“However, based on report received from special observers on the reported incident of violence at one PS No. 126 under 5- Sitalkuchi(SC) Assembly Constituency, Cooch Behar, ECI has adjourned the poll. Detailed report is awaited,” an EC statement said.

The EC said it had laid out an elaborate security plan to “ensure smooth and safe conduct of elections”.

“Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) along with the local police force have been deployed to ensure peaceful, intimidation free and conducive atmosphere for the smooth conduct of elections in a free, fair, inclusive and accessible manner…Peaceful and orderly voting took place on 15,939 booths except one at PS No. 126 of Sitalkuchi Assembly Constituency of Cooch Behar where re-polling has been ordered,” it said.

-- Damini Nath

3.46 p.m.

Mamata seeks Amit Shah's resignation; TMC to hold protest rallies across Bengal

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday sought Union Home Minister Amit Shah's resignation over the killing of four people in firing by Central forces at Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar.

Ms. Banerjee, speaking at a public meeting at Baduria in North 24 Parganas, said she would be leaving for Cooch Behar after attending rallies, and would visit the spot where CISF personnel opened fire during polling in the fourth phase.

"Shah should resign owing responsibility for the incident which is dastardly, cold-blooded and unprecedented," the Trinamool Congress supremo said. She also appealed to people to remain calm.

- PTI

3.45 p.m.

66.76% voter turnout recorded till 3 p.m.

3.20 p.m.

B. K. Hariprasad to shoulder Jitin Prasada's responsibilities as he contracts COVID-19

B. K. Hariprasad, the Congress' senior observer overseeing campaign management for the West Bengal polls, will now also shoulder the responsibilities of AICC in-charge of the State Jitin Prasada, who tested positive for COVID-19 recently and is in quarantine.

Mr. Prasada, who was engaged in aggressively campaigning for the Assembly polls, had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and has been in quarantine as advised by doctors.

"Mr. Jitin Prasada is the AICC in-charge and will remain so. But since he is down with COVID-19, I would be filling in for him during the campaign," B. K. Hariprasad told PTI over the phone from Kolkata.

B. K. Hariprasad said he was already looking after campaign management as a senior observer and will now also discharge additional responsibilities that Mr. Prasada was shouldering during the ongoing polls.

- PTI

2.40 p.m.

'PM Modi, Mamata equally popular' in Bengal: Prashant Kishor in purported audio clip released by BJP

A controversy erupted on Saturday amid the polling for 44 Assembly seats in West Bengal, with the BJP releasing an audio clip where Trinamool Congress' election strategist Prashant Kishor is purportedly heard saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "as popular as" Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in the State.

Sharing excerpts of Mr. Kishor's chat with some journalists, BJP's IT cell chief Amit Malviya claimed that "TMC's election was just thrown away!" Mr. Kishor dared the BJP to release the full record of the chat on Clubhouse, a social media platform, and claimed that the saffron camp would not get more than 100 Assembly seats in the ongoing elections.

In the purported audio clip, which the PTI could not independently verify, Mr. Kishor is heard, saying "Modi is hugely popular in Bengal, and there is no doubt about it. He is equally popular like Mamata Banerjee".

- PTI

2.20 pm

CRPF not deployed outside polling booth 126: spokesperson

"In reference to a recent incident being reported in the media about the killing of 4 civilians outside booth 126, Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi Assembly Constituency, Cooch Bihar, it is clarified that CRPF component was neither deployed at the said booth nor involved in the said incident in any way," said a CRPF spokesperson.

- Vijaita Singh

2.10 pm

52.89% voter turnout recorded till 1 p.m.

2 pm

TMC seeks explanation from EC over death of 4 in firing by central forces in Bengal

TMC sought explanation from the Election Commission over the death of four persons, who were allegedly shot by the central forces at Mathabhanga in Cooch Behar district during the fourth phase of Assembly elections.

"We are sad to say with deep concern that firing by central forces has left four dead and four injured at Mathabhanga. We also want to say that the central forces are committing crimes and crossing all limits. The EC should come out with an explanation," TMC Rajya Sabha MP Dola Sen said.

Ms. Sen said when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had pointed to the excesses of the central forces, she was twice issued a showcause notice. "Now, the people of the State want to showcause the EC about how this unfortunate event unfolded," she said.

She also shared clippings of purported videos, one of which showed central forces vandalising TMC camps at night.

- PTI

1.45 pm

Modi condoles deaths, blames TMC for violence

Condoling the death of four people in firing by central forces in Cooch Behar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident and blamed the ruling TMC for perpetrating violence during the polls.

He accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating people against the central forces.

"What happened in Cooch Behar is unfortunate and sad. I extend my condolences to the bereaved families and urge the Election Commission to take stern action against those responsible for the incident."

"Mamata Didi and her TMC goons have become jittery because of ground swell of support for BJP," Mr. Modi told an election rally in Siliguri in North Bengal.

- PTI

1.30 pm

Mamata calls for State-wide protests on April 11

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says people will give a fitting reply to the firing by exercising their right to franchise.

She calls for State-wide protests tomorrow (April 11).

Ms. Banerjee, who pointed out that five persons were killed in firing said that she will visit the spot where the incident occurred on April 11.

She demanded Union Home Minister Amit Shah's resignation over the firing at Sitalkuchi.

- Shiv Sahay Singh, PTI

1.10 pm

Polling adjourned in station 126 of Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency

Special Arrangement

The polling booth in Sitalkuchi, Cooch Behar where poll-related violence and deaths were reported on April 10, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

 

Election Commission (EC) orders adjourning of the polls in polling station 126 of Sitalkuchi Assembly constituency in Cooch Behar based on the interim report of special observers.

EC asks the observers and West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer for detailed reports by 5 p.m. today.

- Damini Nath

1 pm

Allegations of irregularities

There was violence at Dinhata Assembly seat in Cooch Behar. In some constituencies like Kasba, Jadavpur and Bhangar, candidates of the Opposition alleged electoral malpractice.

BJP candidate from Kasba Indranil Khan and Samyukta Morcha candidate from Bhangar Noushad Siddique alleged irregularities.

- Shv Sahay Singh

12.30 pm

Till 11 a.m about 33.98% voters had exercised their franchise.

- Shiv Sahay Singh

12 pm

TMC alleges five party supporters killed in Sitalkuchi, writes to EC

Villagers alleged that central forces opened fire at booth number 126 in Amtali in Jorpatki gram panchayat at Sitalkuchi. According to the report submitted to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, there was violence between two groups of political activists and the situation turned violent when central forces intervened.

Villagers said eight persons sustained bullet injuries, four of who succumbed to them.

Trinamool Congress said all those killed were party supporters.

In an email to the Election Commission, Rajya Sabha MP Derek O' Brien said, "In Booth no. 126, AC-Sitalkuchi, 5 people have been shot dead by the CRPF after BJP captured the Booth. According to our sources on the ground, all 5 were AITC Party Workers belonging to a certain faith."

The email further noted, "This is a grave violation of the law and the MCC on manifold accounts. I strongly urge you to escalate the matter on priority and begin an investigation at the earliest to apprehend the perpetrators."

- Shiv Sahay Singh

11.30 am

More violence reported in Cooch Behar

More instances of violence are being reported at Sitalkuchi Assembly segment in Cooch Behar. 

Villagers allege central forces opened fire at booth number126 at Jorpatki, Sitalkuchi.

Death toll rises to three.

- Shiv Sahay Singh

10 am

Polling percentage till 9 a.m.

Overall vote percentage: 15.85%

Coochbehar: 15.39%

Aliporduar: 17.97%

Howrah: 17.48%

South 24 Parganas: 13.26%

Hoogly: 17.04%

- Shiv Sahay Singh

9.50 am

Chilli powder was thrown at a CPI(M) agent in a polling booth in Gangulybagan in Jadavpur Assembly seat in southern parts of Kolkata.

- Shiv Sahay Singh

9 am

18-year-old killed in Sitalkuchi

Violence was reported at Sitalkuchi Assembly seat in Cooch Behar district in north Bengal.

One person was killed when miscreants opened fire at people waiting in a queue to cast their vote. The deceased was identified as Ananda Barman, 18.

Fourth phase of polling is underway on 44 Assembly seats in West Bengal. All nine Assembly seats of Cooch Behar district are going to polls today.

- Shiv Sahay Singh

8.30 am

PM urges people to vote in record numbers in West Bengal polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged that votes be cast in record numbers in the fourth phase of the West Bengal elections on Saturday.

"As the 4th phase of the West Bengal elections begin, urging the people voting today to do so in record numbers. I would especially request the youth and women to vote in large numbers," he said in a tweet soon after the polling began.

- PTI

8 am

793 companies of security forces deployed

COVID-19 protocols being maintained at the polling booth in 157-Metiaburuz AC in West Bengal on April 10, 2021.

COVID-19 protocols being maintained at the polling booth in 157-Metiaburuz AC in West Bengal on April 10, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Subham Dutta

 

PTI reports that officials said voting is under way with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols in all nine seats in Howrah district, 11 in South 24 Parganas, five in Alipurduar, nine in Cooch Behar and 10 in Hooghly.

The Election Commission has deployed 793 companies of Central armed security forces for 44 seats in the fourth phase of Assembly polls in the State.

This is the highest-ever deployment in the ongoing polls in the State. While Cooch Behar has been allotted the highest number of 188 companies for nine seats, 103 companies have been allotted for the Howrah Police Commissionerate and 33 companies for rural Howrah district. For the Howrah Police Commissionerate area, the Commission has also appointed a senior police officer who will report to the Howrah Police Commissioner.

 

Contestants in phase four

Among those contesting in the fourth phase are senior Trinamool Congress leader and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee from Behala Purba and Public Works Department and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas from Tollygunj in South 24 Parganas.

Minister for North Bengal Development Rabindranath Ghosh is in the fray from Natabari in Cooch Behar and Minister for Agriculture Marketing Arup Roy is contesting from Howrah Madhya.

Three BJP MPs are contesting the Assembly polls in this phase. Babul Supriyo, MP from Asansol, is locked in a bitter contest in Tollygunj against Mr. Biswas, while Locket Chatterjee, MP from Hooghly, is contesting from Chinsurah in Hooghly district. Cooch Behar MP Nisith Pramanik is contesting from Dinhata. Another key BJP candidate is a former Minister in the Trinamool government, Rajib Banerjee, who is contesting from Domjur in Howrah.

The other Trinamool MLAs who are in the fray as BJP candidates include Prabir Ghosal from Uttarpara in Hooghly, Baishali Dalmiya in Bally, and Mihir Goswami from Natabari in Cooch Behar.

In the Singur Assembly seat in Hooghly, which has witnessed a lot of political activity in the past two decades on the issues of land acquisition, return of land and the promise of industry, former Trinamool MLA Rabindranath Bhattacharya is contesting on BJP ticket.

For Samyukt Morcha, the key candidates include Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Abdul Mannan, contesting from Champdani in Hooghly district; leader of the Left Legislature Party Sujan Chakraborty, who is in the fray from Jadavpur; and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Mohammed Salim, contesting from Chanditala in Hooghly. Naushad Siddique, the brother of Indian Secular Front founder and Furfura peer Abbas Siddique, is contesting from Bhangar in South 24 Parganas.

7 am

Polling begins

Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Metiaburuz AC in West Bengal on April 10, 2021.

Voters queue up outside a polling booth in Metiaburuz AC in West Bengal on April 10, 2021.   | Photo Credit: Subham Dutta

 

Polling began at 7 a.m. for 44 seats in the fourth phase of the West Bengal assembly elections amid tight security, officials said.

Long queues were seen outside polling stations where voting will continue till 6.30 p.m.

Over 1.15 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 373 candidates

- PTI

 

Interview | Those who believe in democracy support the Samyukta Morcha: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

The Samyukta Morcha is providing a real alternative to the people of West Bengal against the competitive communalism of the BJP and the Trinamool Congress, says West Bengal Pradesh Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who has played a crucial role in forging the alliance of the Congress, the Left and the Indian Secular Front. The Congress is contesting 92 seats.

If BJP wants a Congress-mukt Bharat, Trinamool Congress wants an Opposition-free West Bengal; both are two sides of the same coin, says Bengal Congress chief.

Read the full interview here.

 

Campaigning for phase four ended Thursday

Campaign bells fell silent on Thursday evening for the fourth phase of election in West Bengal.

The seats going to the polls have witnessed hectic campaigning with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and BJP president J.P. Nadda campaigning till the last hours. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also campaigned for the BJP in regions where the 44 seats are located. The Trinamoolalso had star campaigners like party leader Abhishek Banerjee and Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan.

 

Shah, Mamata trade charges as campaign gets high-pitched

The political campaign in West Bengal got shriller with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and senior BJP leaders, including Home Minister Amit Shah, keeping up a barrage of attacks on each other.

Ms. Banerjee on Friday alleged that there could be a plot to “assassinate her”. Addressing a public meeting at Memari in Bardhaman, she said, “Amit Shah how much money you have. You are spending crores .. From where you have got so much money? After I have said this, I know there can be plot to assassinate me. They have injured my leg; now there can be a plot to assassinate me. I don’t care. As long as I am alive, I will keep raising the issues.”

Keeping up the political temperature, senior BJP leaders including continued to target the Trinamool Congress chairperson in their campaigns.

“I have never seen a Chief Minister or party chief use words Mamata Banerjee is using against central forces in my entire political career. Is she trying to create anarchy,” Mr Shah said, addressing journalists in Kolkata.

 

Polling officials check EVMs and other materials at a distribution centre, on the eve of fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly polls, in Kolkata on April 9, 2021.

Polling officials check EVMs and other materials at a distribution centre, on the eve of fourth phase of West Bengal Assembly polls, in Kolkata on April 9, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

 

 

22% of candidates in phase 4 face criminal cases

A report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) said 22% of the candidates in the fray for phase-IV of the West Bengal Assembly elections had declared pending criminal cases in their election affidavits.

In its analysis of affidavits of 372 of 373 candidates from 44 constituencies, ADR found that 17% of them had serious criminal cases.

The average assets of the candidates was ₹92.34 lakh, while 17% of them had assets over ₹1 crore. The complete affidavit of one candidate was not available, ADR said, releasing its findings on Saturday.

The report said 61% of the 44 BJP candidates, 73% of the 22 Communist Party of India (Marxist) nominees, 22% of the nine Congress candidates and 39% of the 44 Trinamool Congress analysed had declared criminal cases.

An earlier version of the report said polling is adjourned in station 125. It has been corrected. The error is regretted.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 8:58:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/west-bengal-assembly/west-bengal-assembly-polls-fourth-phase-live-updates/article34284936.ece

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