KOLKATA: Some 70.01 per cent votes were polled in Maheshtala Vidhan Sabha by-election in the south-western fringes of Kolkata in West Bengal till 5 pm on Monday. Polling started at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm.
Polling remained peaceful amid tight security as 2.58 lakh voters exercised their franchise at 283 booths of the constituency out of which 43 were marked as sensitive. Ten companies of paramilitary forces along with state police were deployed at the booths. No complaints of EVM malfunctioning were reported.
The prime fight is between ruling party Trinamool Congress and BJP, which established itself as the main opposition in the panchayat elections. In an informal electoral alliance, Congress did not put up any candidate leaving the seat for CPM to contest. The by-election was necessitated by the death of TMC MLA Kasturi Das in February this year.
In view of allegations of massive rigging by the ruling party in the recently-concluded panchayat elections in the state, the Election Commission in Delhi and Kolkata closely monitored the election through CCTV cameras.
Dulal Das, TMC candidate and widower of Kasturi Das, accused BJP of distributing money to the voters. “BJP had distributed money last night in different areas and our boys nabbed some of them red-handed. They are also bringing in cadres from other areas to foment trouble,” he said. Some 22 per cent of the total electorate in the constituency is Muslim.
On the other hand, BJP candidate Sujit Ghosh expressed displeasure over the role of the central forces. “Overall polling is going on peacefully but I have complaints regarding the central forces. They are being deployed only in the booths and are not conducting patrolling. As a former police officer, I know that patrolling is most important to ensure security around the booths. Miscreants can charge one bomb and prevent voters from coming near the booths,” he said.
CPM candidate Prabhat Choudhury said he has submitted a written complaint about mob gatherings in front of a few polling booths. The State Election Commission has received 22 complaints regarding the elections, sources revealed.