Over one crore voters in West Bengal will decide the political fate of 342 candidates on Saturday, when 45 assembly constituencies go to polls in the fifth phase, amid a raging second wave of COVID-19.
Security measures have been heightened for phase five in view of the violence in the previous phase, which witnessed the death of five people in Cooch Behar, including four in CISF firing.
The Election Commission has decided to deploy at least 853 companies of central forces to ensure free and fair voting, an official of the poll panel said.
Here are the live updates:
West Bengal polling till 5 pm: 78.36℅
Darjling : 74.31%
North 24 Parganas: 74.83%
According to Election Commission sources, 69.40% voter turnout recorded till 3 p.m. in 45 seats where polling is underway for the first phase of West Bengal elections.
EC seeks report after locals in Bengal district claim central forces opened fire
The Election Commission on Saturday sought a report from poll observers on an alleged incident of firing by central forces in Deganga constituency of South 24 Parganas — where voting is underway — after such allegations were levelled by locals.
A senior election official said the office of CEO Ariz Aftab has received video footages, in which villagers are seen alleging that central forces opened fire near a booth in Kurulgacha area of Deganga to chase them away.
"We have sought a quick report on the matter from the poll observers there," he said.
However, a Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) officer posted at the booth, where the locals claimed shots have been fired, said the allegations made are "baseless".
"Everything is fine here. The voting exercise is going on very peacefully. There was no incident of firing anywhere in this area," he stated.
Polling is underway for the fifth phase of assembly elections in 45 constituencies of West Bengal.
My phone is being tapped, will order CID probe: Mamata
A day after a purported audio tape – in which she is heard proposing a rally with the bodies of Cooch Behar firing victims – surfaced, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday alleged that her phone is being tapped and said she will order a CID probe into it.
Addressing an election rally here, she accused the BJP of being involved in the conspiracy as the saffron party "cannot match" the ruling Trinamool Congress' campaigning on development programmes.
According to Election Commission sources, 54.67% voter turnout recorded till 1 p.m. in 45 seats where polling is underway for the fifth phase of West Bengal Assembly elections.
PM Modi alleges Trinamool Congress is ‘pressuring Election Commission to thwart polling process’
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday accused the Trinamool Congress of putting pressure on the Election Commission of India (ECI) to “thwart the polling process”.
Addressing a public meeting at Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman, he said that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was trying all means to “subvert and stop the elections”.
“This time Didi (Ms. Banerjee) and her party is not being allowed to resort to rigging during the election. This is the reason why she is trying all means to subvert and stop the elections,” the Prime Minister said.
Sporadic incidents of violence reported in some areas
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from some areas where polling was underway in the fifth phase of the assembly elections in West Bengal on Saturday, officials said.
Polling was being held in 45 seats in North 24 Parganas, Purba Bardhaman and Nadia in south Bengal, and Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts in the north.
Till 11 am, 36.02 per cent voter turnout was recorded
The security personnel are maintaining a tight vigil and they have addressed a few incidents that were reported, an official at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said. In the Shantinagar area of Bidhanagar, a clash broke out between TMC and BJP supporters with both sides accusing each other of stopping the voters from going to the polling booths.
Bricks and stones were hurled, injuring eight people, officials said.
A huge contingent of the central force was rushed to the spot to control the situation, they said.
TMC MLA Sujit Bose and BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta visited the spot to take stock of the situation.
In Siliguri, a scuffle broke out between TMC and CPI (M) supporters outside a polling booth.
In Santipur in the Nadia district, the TMC alleged that personnel of the central forces were asking voters to go back, a charge rubbished by the authorities.
Further, the TMC alleged that a polling booth in the Bardhaman Uttar constituency was captured by the BJP. The allegation was denied by the opposition party, while poll officials said that no such incident has happened.
In Bijpur in North 24 Parganas, TMC and BJP supporters clashed after the opposition party alleged that voters were being prevented from going to the booths.
The BJP also alleged that some of its booth agents in the Minakha constituency of the same district were "kidnapped" by the TMC.
The TMC said that the BJP does not have enough strength to depute agents in all the booths and that is why it was levelling such "baseless" allegation.
16.15 voter turnout till 9 a.m.
The overall situation was peaceful in the morning hours in the areas where polling was underway in the fifth phase of West Bengal elections on Saturday, a senior official said.
The security personnel are maintaining a tight vigil and a few incidents that were reported have been addressed by them, the official at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said.
"As of now, polling is peaceful. There were a few incidents and those have been addressed by the central forces personnel," he said.
"We have an adequate number of forces deployed in all the six districts where polling is underway. Quick Response Team (QRT) will reach a spot within minutes after receiving information of any untoward incident. At the moment, there is no report of any big problem anywhere," he added.
The polling started at 7 am and will continue till 6.30 pm in 15,789 stations across the six districts.
Till 9 am, 16.15 per cent voter turnout was recorded.
Polling agent dies in North 24 Parganas
A polling agent, representing the Bharatiya Janata Party, died inside a polling booth at Kamarhati Assembly segment in North 24 Parganas as polling was underway.
The incident was reported from booth number 107 of Kamarhati.
Chief Electoral Officer has sought a report on the death. — Shiv Sahay Singh
PM Modi urges voters to turn up in large numbers
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, April 17, 2021, urged voters in the fifth phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections to vote in large numbers. In tweets, he also noted that bypolls to many assembly and Lok Sabha seats were taking place on Saturday, and asked people to vote in record numbers and strengthen the festival of democracy.
"Urging all those voting in today's fifth phase of the West Bengal elections to vote in large numbers. First time voters in particular should exercise their franchise," Mr. Modi added.
Polling begins, fate of 342 candidates to be sealed
The polling for the fifth phase of West Bengal assembly elections began at 7 am on Saturday, April 17, 2021 across 45 assembly segments amid tight security.
Long queues were seen outside polling booths where voting is underway adhering to COVID-19 protocols, official sources said.
Over one crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the political fate of 342 candidates.
The polling will continue till 6:30 pm.
1071 companies of central forces for polling
The Election Commission of India has deployed 1,071 companies of Central forces for polling in 45 Assembly seats across six districts of the State on Saturday. Going by the deployment of Central armed police forces in the four earlier phases, this is the highest ever deployment of forces. This is also the highest number of Assembly seats going to polls in any phase in the marathon eight phase election in the State.
In North 24 Parganas, over 280 companies of Central forces have been deployed for 16 Assembly seats. Darjeeling has about 142 companies. Purba Bardhaman, where eight seats are going to the polls, will have 155 companies, and Nadia district, where a similar number of seats are going to the polls, will have 151 companies. Thirteen seats in north Bengal are spread across three districts — five in Darjeeling, seven in Jalpaiguri and one in Kalimpong. In south Bengal, 16 seats are spread across North 24 Parganas, and there are eight each in Nadia and Bardhaman.
Amid tall poll promises, distress looms over north Bengal tea gardens
Over the past few elections, Benam Oraon, a tea garden worker at Nagrakata Tea Estate in West Bengal, attended several election meetings and kept a note of the promises which political parties made. This election, however, he is contesting the polls as a candidate from Nagrakata Assembly seat in Jalpaiguri district representing an unregistered Progressive People’s Party .
“My election symbol is football. This is to give a message that tea garden workers have been treated like a football by the political parties,” the tea garden worker said.
Jorasanko a prestige battle for BJP
In the tightly poised 11 seats in Kolkata city where the Trinamool Congress has held ground in the past, the BJP is hoping to make headway this time around and one of the seats its hopes are pinned on is the ancestral home of the Tagore family, Jorasanko.
The area’s fame outside of Kolkata is its connection to the Tagore family, the Thakur Bari or mansion of the Tagore family, former home to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, and currently a museum.
( With inputs from Shiv Sahay Singh and agencies)