Bhabanipur by-poll vote count begins; result to decide Mamata's fate
The counting of votes has begun for the Bhabanipur by-poll, which will decide whether Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee gets to retain her seat as West Bengal Chief Minister. The crucial election was held on September 30, witnessing a low voter turnout of 53.32% till 5 pm. However, the TMC claimed that the party will win by a margin of over 50,000 votes.
Since the election result will decide Banerjee's fate, 24 companies of central forces have been deployed at counting centers to ensure that the process continues smoothly. The entire area will also be placed under CCTV surveillance. Notably, postal ballots will be counted first. Overall, there will be 21 rounds of counting for the Bhabanipur by-poll, the Election Commission said.
The vote-counting process is also underway for the by-poll in Jangipur and Samserganj, which had recorded a voter turnout of 76.12% and 78.60% till 5 pm, respectively. Currently, the TMC is leading in all three seats.
Voting during the by-poll was largely peaceful. According to the EC, no major incident of violence or electoral malpractice was reported. Banerjee's Bhabanipur rival, BJP candidate Priyanka Tibrewal, had alleged booth capture by the TMC. The EC said it had received 97 complaints, including 85 related to the Bhabanipur by-poll, and 91 of them had been quashed.
During the 2021 West Bengal Assembly election, Banerjee lost from Nandigram to confidant-turned-rival, BJP's Suvendu Adhikari. The TMC won the election and Banerjee retained her CM seat, provided she is elected to the state legislature within six months. The Bhabanipur seat was then vacated by Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, making way for the by-poll to be conducted to ensure that Banerjee would remain CM.
The TMC has expressed confidence in Banerjee's ability to win the election by a margin of over 50,000 votes. Meanwhile, the BJP has said that Tibrewal had put up a "very good fight." Bhabanipur is the CM's home turf. Her residence is located in the constituency and she has successfully contested the seat twice, in the 2011 and 2016 elections.