Mamata Banerjee’s virtual crash course for candidates, polling agents ahead of counting day
Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee organised a crash course for her party’s candidates and their counting agents on Friday, ahead of the counting of votes scheduled on May 2.
Out of the 294 assembly seats, the 45-minute virtual session was attended by 287 candidates and their counting agents who would be on the ground on the big day, other than top leaders of the party including TMC MP and chief minister’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
“The chief minister stressed on the fact that we should not fall for any rumours and should remain focussed on the counting till the end. For some assembly seats, agents have been alerted that the TMC may lag in the first few rounds but would ultimately have the last smile. So, the agents should not leave their seats at any point of time feeling dejected,” said a candidate, who attended the meeting.
“She also advised that counting agents, at no point in time, should accept any food, drinks or even cigarettes from anyone. A mobile number has also been given to everyone, which would act as a helpline if the agents and candidates face any problem,” another candidate added.
Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson in West Bengal, said, “She (Banerjee) may give a last-minute vocal tonic to her candidates, but BJP would have the last smile and would win more than 200 seats as projected by Amit Shah. It’s now a matter of just a few hours”.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has already announced a three-layer plan on Wednesday to ward off the threat of coronavirus infections during the counting of votes for assembly elections, ordering more counting halls, banning public gatherings outside centres and allowing entry to candidates or polling agents only if they are fully vaccinated or have a Covid negative report.
On Friday 48-hours ahead of the polling day preparations were in full swing across all the 108 counting centres and more than 700 counting halls. Candidates and polling agents queued up at various centres to get their Covid-test done. At Howrah, a scuffle broke out between the counting agents when they were standing in a queue to get their tests done.
“This year the counting process would be lengthier as all Covid protocols need to be followed and materials would have to be sanitised thoroughly. Unlike previous years when the trend starts showing by 12 noon and 1 pm, this year it may take much longer,” said a poll panel official.
The month-long poll season, which began with a high octane political battle between the BJP and the TMC but was overshadowed by the surge in Covid-19 infections in the state, came to an end on April 29. The counting of votes is scheduled for Sunday.
Exit poll results for the assembly elections were announced on Thursday. Pollsters projected a cliffhanger in West Bengal, where the TMC is looking to retain power for the third term and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is confident of securing a majority of over 200 seats.