Poll campaigning comes to an end in Bengal amid scuffles between Trinamool, BJP
Scuffles between supporters of the TMC and the BJP and allegations of threats to saffron party leaders marked the last day of the campaign in Bhabanipur.
KOLKATA: Campaigning for Thursday's high-voltage by-poll to the Bhabanipur assembly seat in south Kolkata where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting as the Trinamool Congress candidate, and elections to two other constituencies in Murshidabad district ended on Monday.
Scuffles between supporters of the TMC and the BJP and allegations of threats to saffron party leaders marked the last day of the campaign in Bhabanipur, while canvassing for the Samserganj and Jangipur constituencies passed off peacefully.
Bypoll to Bhabanipur was necessitated following the resignation of Trinamool Congress MLA Sovandeb Chattopadhyay so that the party supremo can contest from the seat which Banerjee won in 2011 and 2016 elections.
In the assembly election held earlier this year, Banerjee, a resident of the Bhabanipur constituency, contested from Nandigram, where the anti-farmland acquisition movement against the Left Front government had transformed her into a major political force in the state, to dare her former protege turned adversary Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP in his home turf.
Though she powered the TMC to a resounding win for a third straight term in office, she lost to Adhikari by a narrow margin, and challenged the result in the Calcutta High Court.
The case is pending.
Banerjee now must win the by-poll to ensure an unbroken stint as the chief minister.
According to the constitutional provision, a person has to get elected to the legislature within six months of taking oath of office as a chief minister or a minister.
She took oath as the CM on May 5.
Besides Banerjee, the BJP's Priyanka Tibrewal and the CPI(M)'s Srijib Biswas are contesting from Bhabanipur.
The Congress has decided not to field a candidate there.
Elections to Samserganj and Jangipur were countermanded earlier due to deaths of candidates.
While Rezaul Haque, the Congress candidate from Samserganj, died on April 15, the RSP candidate from Jangipur Pradip Nandi, passed away a day later.
In Samserganj, the candidates for the September 30 election are Amirul Islam (TMC), Zaidur Rahman (Congress), Milan Ghosh (BJP).
The candidates for Jangipur are Jakir Hossain (TMC), Sujit Das (BJP) and Alam Mian (RSP).
Votes of the three constituencies will be counted on October 3.
Altogether 52 companies of central forces were deployed for the polls in the three assembly seats, an official at the CEO here said.
Of them, 19 companies have been deployed in Bhabanipur.
The central forces were personnel from the CRPF, BSF, SSB CISF and the ITBP, the official said.
A BJP delegation met the West Bengal chief electoral officer on Monday and demanded deployment of central paramilitary forces at every polling booth and promulgation of Section 144 Cr PC in Bhabanipur constituency in the city during the by-poll on September 30 in view of the alleged attack on party leaders during the day and earlier.
The BJP delegation also demanded that the CEO Aarif Aftab disallow Kolkata Police from having direct control to maintain law and order in the constituency on the polling day to ensure free and fair poll.
Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, who led the delegation, told reporters the BJP delegation informed the CEO how the party's Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh was heckled near Hanuman Mandir in Bhabanipur during the day and had to return without campaigning.
"In a second incident, our former state president Dilip Ghosh was attacked by the same people who enjoyed the patronage of a family in the area. We have reported it to the CEO," he said.
Campaigning for the by-poll, in which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a candidate, came to an end on Monday and was marked by rising of political temperatures.
The BJP MP said it was seen whenever there is a possibility of high voter turnout, the TMC resorts to such terror tactics.
"We therefore urged the CEO to ensure that central forces are deployed in each booth and section 144 CRPC is enforced in the entire constituency".
Asked about Ghosh's demand for countermanding the by-poll in Bhabanipur, Dasgupta said "We want free and fair polls.
What Dilip Ghosh said about countermanding Bhabanipur by-poll till the situation in the constituency returns to normal is based on his apprehension and real perception about the scope of holding free and fair polls.
"We want the Election Commission to take steps to instill confidence among people about holding elections without fear.
We asked the chief electoral officer to see that the Kolkata Police is not in direct charge of holding polls," he said.
BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh was on Monday pushed and heckled by alleged TMC supporters, prompting his security officer to whip out a pistol in Bhabanipur assembly constituency.
The EC sought a report on the incident from the state.
Party MP Arjun Singh faced 'go-back' slogans from the ruling TMC workers while soliciting votes for party candidate Pryanka Tibrewal.
The incident involving Ghosh occurred when he inside a vaccination camp in Jodubabur Bazaar area in the constituency.
TMC supporters present at the spot shouted slogans demanding that he leave, alleging that he was campaigning at a state-run vaccination programme which was not permitted.
Ghosh was whisked away by his security guards.
He later alleged TMC supporters "attacked" him without provocation and injured a BJP activist.
Dasgupta said the CEO's office was asked to ensure live streaming through weblink of the entire constituency for immediate action by central forces.