Bhabanipur by-poll: Voting underway; BJP alleges booth capture by TMC
Voting for the hotly-contested Bhabanipur by-poll began at 7 am today in South Kolkata. More than three lakh people are expected to cast votes in a do-or-die election for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She must win this poll to retain the top post. Polling will take place for nearly 12 hours and the result will be out on October 3.
Priyanka Tibrewal, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate challenging Banerjee in this poll, today alleged booth capture by the Trinamool Congress (TMC). "TMC MLA Madan Mitra has purposely shut the voting machine here (polling booth of ward number 72) as he wants to capture the booth," she said. Tibrewal, 40, is a Calcutta High Court lawyer who had joined the BJP in 2014.
Banerjee's TMC won a thumping majority even though she lost her individual contest in this year's Assembly elections. She was defeated by BJP's Suvendu Adhikari - once her close aide - in Nandigram. She has since challenged his election in court. According to the Indian Constitution, a person must get elected as an MLA within six months of taking oath as a Minister.
Bhabanipur is the CM's home turf. Her residence is located in the constituency and she has successfully contested the seat twice, in 2011 and 2016 elections. Meanwhile, the Left Front has fielded Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Srijib Biswas for the by-poll while the Congress decided against contesting. Recently, the Calcutta HC refused to stay the election, dismissing a plea in that regard.
Strict security arrangements have been made in Bhabanipur in view of the high-profile election. No more than five people can gather within 200 meters around the polling booths. Further, 35 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed in the constituency. Mitra Institution, a high school where Banerjee casts her vote, is among over a dozen booths declared "very sensitive."
By 9 am today, voter turnout in Bhabanipur remained low at 7.57 percent, reports said. Besides that constituency, by-elections are also being held for Jangipur and Samserganj Assembly constituencies today.