West Bengal, Odisha bypolls: Counting continues amid tight security

New Delhi: Counting of votes for bypolls to four assembly constituencies – three in West Bengal and one in Odisha – began at 8 am on Sunday and initial trends are expected in the first hour itself.

Bengal has three assembly constituencies Bhabnipur, Jangipur and Samserganj, while Odisha has one Pipili. The Bengal bypolls are important as it will determine the fate of Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to continue as chief minister.

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There will be 21 rounds of counting in Bhawanipur constituency where BJP’s Priyanka Tibrewal and CPM’s Shreejib Biswas have been pitted against the chief minister. The polling body has arranged a three-tier security arrangement by calling 24 companies of central forces for the counting of votes.

Eight CCTV cameras have been installed in the EVM strong room and prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC have been imposed within 200 meters of counting centers in all the three constituencies.

Samserganj and Jangipur recorded high turnout rates of 79.92% and 77.63% respectively.

“We are confident that she will win by over 50,000 votes”, said Firhad Hakim, a cabinet minister and senior TMC leader who has campaigned for Banerjee almost every day in the past one month.

At the same time, BJP’s National Vice President and former Bengal President of the party, Dilip Ghosh said, ‘BJP will give a very good fight in Bhabnipur. If there is any violence after the result then the government will have to investigate it, otherwise there is CBI.

Banerjee had earlier been elected twice from Bhabanipur, but during the assembly elections earlier this year, she left Bhabanipur to contest from Nandigram in East Midnapore district. However, she lost by 1,956 votes to her former confidante-turned-BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.

Moderate voting was recorded in the bypoll to Bhawanipore assembly seat, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting to retain her post, as polling in the high-profile constituency of South Kolkata concluded peacefully on Thursday.

Around 53.32 per cent polling was recorded in this seat till 5 pm.

High polling rates of 78.60 per cent and 76.12 per cent were recorded in Murshidabad’s Samserganj and Jangipur seats, respectively, where polling had to be canceled during the April-May assembly elections following the death of two candidates.

A total of 6,97,164 voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the three constituencies.

The Bhawanipur bypoll has turned into a battle of prestige for Banerjee, who is currently not an MLA and has to become a member of the state legislature by November 5. The Bhabanipur election has been called after the resignation of Banerjee’s party leader Shobhandeb Chattopadhyay. stepped down to make way for him.

(with inputs from PTI)