As the country grappled with a deadly second coronavirus wave, 34 seats went to polls in Phase 7 of the West Bengal election today across five districts. And as per the Turnout app, voter turnout at a remarkable 75.06% at 6:00 PM despite the public apprehension, much as 80% and above in considered normal for any election in this state.
Polling on two seats, Jangipur and Samserganj, had been deferred due to the death of two candidates. These two seats will go to the polls on 16 May, and the results for these two seats will be declared on 19 May.
The 36 assembly constituencies that voted today are spread across Murshidabad (9), South Dinajpur (6), Malda (6), Kolkata (4) and West Bardhaman (9) districts.
The seats up for grabs were Kushmandi, Kumarganj, Balurghat, Tapan, Gangarampur, Harirampur, Habibpur, Gazole, Chanchal, Harischandrapur, Malatipur, Ratua, Farakka, Suti, Raghunathganj, Sagardighi, Lalgola, Bhagawangola, Raninagar, Murshidabad, Nabagram, Kolkata Port, Bhabanipur, Rashbehari, Ballygunge, Pandabeswar, Durgapur Purba, Durgapur Paschim, Raniganj, Jamuria, Asansol Dakshin, Asansol Uttar, Kulti and Barabani.
The Election Commission deployed at least 796 companies of central forces at 12,068 polling stations.
Trinamool head and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, the party MP, had cancelled all their scheduled rallies and held them on the virtual platform as did Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 23 April.
Bengal rallies flout COVID norms
With the BJP, AITC and the INC-Communist alliance entangled in a battle for Bengal, top leaders like Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda, Chief Minister Banerjee, her nephew Abhishek Banerjee, former INC president Rahul Gandhi and his party’s Murshidabad strongman Adhir Ranjan Choudhury were holding massive rallies and roadshows across the state. Visuals shared by these leaders showed massive crowds flouting social distancing guidelines, not wearing masks, cheering as the nation battles a second Covid-19 wave.
With experts expressing concern over the lack of any social distancing in these rallies, many have criticised these politicians for sending the wrong message amid a pandemic. Later, the commission banned roadshows and bicycle, bike, and vehicle rallies and limited public meetings to a maximum of 500 persons for the West Bengal election.
Nadda addresses press
Addressing a press meet in Kolkata, BJP chief JP Nadda said, “Today polling for the 7th phase will end today and campaigning for the 8th phase will end today. Will like to thank the voters of WB for Voting even during the adverse situation. 2021 WB election was an unprecedented and unique election. Trinamool led by Mamata Didi showed the lowest level of election campaigning. BJP will say we will give Justice to all and appeasement to none.”
Nadda said, “We consider this city as the city of opportunity and it will be the city of 21st century. Our campaign was for positivity and how we can deliver the promises we did. Mamata Didi showed the highest level of immaturity, and now she is threatening the state police as well. In this election, Trinamool said statements against the Dalits and Mamata Didi didn’t oppose the statements, and non of her supporting parts did.”
Thanking BJP workers for their work, he said, ” I thank all the voters of WB as they supported us, I thank all my workers to support and work following the COVID rules, I also thank the media workers for the support. We have always been proactive and we will deal with the Covid-19 situation in WB in the same way. Mamata Didi is full of negativity and she is a support of negative forces. Because Mamata Didi is losing she is blaming the Election Commission.”
Mithun predicts BJP win
Mithun Chakraborty, the BJP’s star campaigner and actor-long-turned-politician, claimed in Birbhum that after 2 May, a BJP government would be formed in West Bengal. Chakraborty, who had come to campaign in support of BJP candidate Piya Saha from the Sainthia assembly seat in District Birbhum, said, “A government of change is coming in Bengal. Only BJP will develop Bengal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will fulfil what he has dreamed about West Bengal.”
Chakraborty said Bengal would actually be called Sonar Bangla once again. He promised on the behalf of the BJP free transportation facility to every woman in all buses. The pregnant will get the AC facility in various block hospitals, he promised.
“Women will get allowances from birth to death, including widow’s allowance. In the interest of farmers, the government will change the state to benefit them through various schemes,” Chakraborty said.
Bhabanipur: Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay (AITC) vs Rudranil Ghosh (BJP) vs Md Shadab Khan (INC)
AITC head Mamata Banerjee’s bastion is up for grabs as she fields veteran Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay to counter BJP’s actor-turned-neta Rudranil Ghosh. With BJP claiming ‘Mamata ran away’ owing to the saffron party’s good performance in Lok Sabha and the seat, AITC minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who has held the Rashbehari constituency since 1998 – when Trinamool split from Congress eyes to retain it for Mamata. Mamata, while campaigning in her hometurf had announced that she will contest only from the Nandigram seat in East Midnapore district, and not from Bhabanipore. Mamata has held Bhabanipore since 2011 after she contested a by-election, defeating CPI(M)’s Nandini Mukerjee winning 77.46% of the votes.
Balurghat: Sekhar Dasgupta (AITC) vs Ashok Lahiri (BJP) vs Sucheta Biswas (RSP)
In a three-way fight, renowned economist Ashok Lahiri has been fielded by BJP against AITC’s Sekhar Dasgupta and RSP’s Sucheta Biswas in this Dakshin Dinajpur district seat. Lahiri – the former Chief Economic Adviser who was to be fielded from Alipurduar, but later switched to Balurghat, aims to strengthen the inroads BJP has made in the areas. In 2011, AITC’s Chakraborty Shankar had trounced RSP’s Biswanath Choudhury while Choudhary defeated Shankar by a slender margin of 1450 votes.
Rashbehari: Lt Gen Subrata Saha (BJP) Vs Debasish Kumar (AITC)
An AITC bastion in Kolkata, held by Sobhandeb since 1998 will witness a tough battle between AITC’s Debasish Kumar and former deputy chief of army staff Lt Gen Subrata Saha (BJP). Lt Gen Saha, a former member of the National Security Advisory Board, has been fielded by the saffron party to stir ‘nationalist sentiment’, a key plank since Lok Sabha 2019 polls. On the other hand, Debashish Kumar, known for his groundwork during the COVID lockdown and cyclone Amphan eyes to win the seat for Trinamool.
Kolkata Port: Firhad Hakim (AITC) vs Awad Kishore Gupta (BJP) vs Md Muktar (INC)
A sure shot seat for Trinamool in Kolkata will see AITC minister Firhad Hakim face BJP’s Awad Kishore Gupta and Congress’ Md Muktar. Hakim, one of Mamata’s closest aide, won the seat in 2016 with a handsome vote share of 53% and retained it in the Lok Sabha polls too. He eyes to retain this Muslim-majority seat.
Jamuria: Aishe Ghosh (CPM) Vs Tapash Roy (BJP) Vs Bardhaman Hareram Singh (AITC)
A CPM stronghold from Asansol will see JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh take the poll plunge contesting against AITC’s Bardhaman Hareram Singh. Ghosh shot to fame in January 2020, when she and other JNU students were allegedly attacked by ABVP students with the aide of a ‘masked mob’ in the college hostel on a disagreement over student registration for the Winter course. Ghosh, who was probed by the Delhi police sustained a severe head injury and garnered nationwide support from students and celebrities alike. CPM’s Jahanara Khan won the seat twice in 2011 and 2016 trouncing the AITC candidate.
AITC head Banerjee’s bastion is up for grabs as she fields veteran Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay to counter BJP’s actor-turned-neta Rudranil Ghosh. With BJP claiming ‘Mamata ran away’ owing to the saffron party’s good performance in Lok Sabha and the seat, AITC minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, who has held the Rashbehari constituency since 1998 when Trinamool split from Congress eyes to retain it for Mamata. Mamata, while campaigning in her home turf had announced that she will contest only from the Nandigram seat in District East Midnapore, and not from Bhabanipore. Mamata has held Bhabanipore since 2011 after she contested a by-election, defeating CPI(M)’s Nandini Mukerjee winning 77.46% of the votes.
After retaining Asansol in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP eyes to win the seat fielding Krishnendu Mukherjee against 3-time AITC MLA Moloy Ghatak. Asansol MP Babul Supriyo, who has been infected by COVID-19 for the second time, had alleged that AITC goons attacked Mukherjee. Ghatak trounced CPM’s Ranu Roy Chowdhury in 2011 and BJP’s Nirmal Karmakar in 2016.
A Muslim-majority constituency, Congress has fielded veteran Niazuddin Sekh to counter turncoat MLA Shaoni Singha Roy who has since then switched to AITC. While Congress, allied with ISF and Left Front, wishes to retain the Muslim vote in Murshidabad and Malda, AITC eyes a win from the seat fielding Roy. She had defeated Forward Bloc’s Bivas Chakraborty by a margin of over 6,300 votes in 2011 and retained it in 2016, defeating AITC’s Ashim Krishna Bhatta by a margin of more than 25,000 votes.