After witnessing weeks of intense campaigning, as many as 30 Assembly seats in West Bengal go to polls today.
The elections are being held amid a covid-19 surge and authorities have been tasked with ensuring compliance of all covid-related guidelines. The Election Commission (EC) has deployed around 684 companies of central forces to guard 10,288 polling booths housed in 7,061 premises, officials said.
The seats that are going to polls include-- nine seats in Purulia, four in Bankura, four in Jhargram and six in Paschim Medinipur, besides the seven seats in high-stakes Purba Medinipur – the home ground of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.
As many as 73 lakh voters will decide the fate of 191 candidates contesting in these seats. The TMC and BJP have fielded candidates in 29 seats each, while the Left-Congress-ISF alliance has put up candidates in all 30 seats, even as there are "friendly fights" in some.
Of these 30 seats, 27 were won by the TMC in the 2016 Assembly elections, the Congress bagged two and RSP one. However, the equations changed in 2019 with BJP making massive inroads in the tribal-dominated Jungle Mahal region, winning all five Lok Sabha constituencies -- Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, Medinipur and Bishnupur.
6.00 pm: Alleging that the BJP was bringing in goons from outside to stop people from exercising their franchise in Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday urged women to "confront the hoodlums with ladle, spatula" and other cooking utensils.
5.30 pm: A clash broke out on Saturday between activists of the BJP and the TMC in Purba Medinipur's Nandigram constituency -- which is set to go to polls on April 1 -- leaving at least three persons seriously injured.
5.00 pm: 79.79 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the first till 5 pm.
3.52 pm: 70.17 per cent of 73.80 lakh voters exercise their franchise till 3 pm in 30 seats where polling is underway for first phase.
2.20 pm: A Trinamool Congress delegation, led by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay urged the Election Commission to bring back the rule which enjoined upon political parties to appoint only people, registered as voters in an assembly segment where an election booth was located, as polling agents for that booth.
1.50 pm: The seats in Purba Medinipur recorded the highest turnout at 38.89 per cent, followed by Jhargram (37.07 per cent) and Bankura (36.38 per cent).
1.30 pm: The seats in Paschim Medinipur recorded 35.50 per cent turnout, while those in Purulia saw 33.58 per cent voters exercising their franchise.
1.10 pm: 54.90 percent of 73.80 lakh voters exercise their franchise till 1.00 pm
12.30 pm: BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari's younger brother Soumendu was attacked in Kanthi by TMC supporters, his party alleged. His car was reportedly vandalised and his driver was injured in the attack.
12.15 pm: In the Salboni seat of Paschim Medinipur, CPI(M) candidate Susanta Ghosh was heckled and stones were hurled at his car allegedly by TMC supporters, police said. As soon as he reached Salboni Bazar, some TMC supporters gheraoed and heckled him, following which they also attacked his car, eyewitnesses said.
Police personnel posted in the area rescued and escorted him to safety.
"This is an attack on democracy. This is jungle raj going on," said Ghosh, a former minister in the Left Front government.
12. 00 pm: The protesters blocked a road outside the polling station at Majna, claiming that even if they voted for one party, the VVPAT slip showed another party. A contingent of central forces was deployed to control the situation, an EC official said, adding that the VVPAT machine was replaced.
11.45 am: A voter undergoes a temperature screening before entering a polling booth in West Bengal’s Jhargram.
11.30 am: In the Kanthi Dakshin seat in Purba Medinipur, voters staged a protest outside a polling booth over EVM malfunctioning.
11.15 am: 36.09 per cent turnout recorded till 11 am, officials said.
11.00 am: Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from some areas, officials said adding that overall poll situation was peaceful
10.30 am: BJP Leader Soumendu Adhikari has alleged that people are being barred from voting at a polling centre in Contai, reports claimed.
10.00 am: A Trinamool Congress (TMC delegation is expected to meet the West Bengal Chief Electoral Officer at noon to raise concerns about the voting percentage.
"What is happening @ECISVEEP?! Could you explain how voting percentage drastically reduced to half within a gap of just 5 minutes?! Shocking! @CEOWestBengal, please look into this urgently!" AITC tweeted.
What is happening @ECISVEEP?!
Could you explain how voting percentage drastically reduced to half within a gap of just 5 minutes?!March 27, 2021
9.45 am: The state recorded a voter turnout of 10.2 percent till 9.30 am, reports claimed
9.00 am: BJP president JP Nadda urges voters to follow covid-19 protocols
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8.30 am: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urges people to vote in larger numbers
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I call upon the people of Bengal to exercise their democratic right by coming out and voting in large numbers.— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) March 27, 2021
8.00 am: BJP candidate Samit Das casts his vote in West Midnapore
7.30 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters to hit the polling booths in record numbers
Today, Phase 1 of the West Bengal Assembly elections begin. I would request all those who are voters in the seats polling today to exercise their franchise in record numbers.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 27, 2021
7:00 am: Polling begins for first phase of West Bengal Assembly elections
6:30 am: EC officials prepare to conduct elections at a polling booth in West Bengal’s East Midnapore.
West Bengal: Preparations underway at a polling booth inEast Midnapore, ahead of voting for the first phase of #WestBengalElections2021 today.
Visuals from Prabhat Kumar College in Contai pic.twitter.com/6af0penX1d— ANI (@ANI) March 27, 2021
(With PTI inputs)