Bengal campaign concludes, 75% turnout in seventh phase
Roughly 75% people voted in the penultimate phase of elections in West Bengal, the lowest turnout so far, as campaigning for the month-long poll season drew to a close under a cloud of surging coronavirus infections and critical medical shortages on Monday.
The seventh phase of polling for 34 seats in four districts and south Kolkata was largely peaceful, barring stray violence in some areas even as a sharp spike in coronavirus infection kept many voters indoors. The overall provisional voting rate at 11,376 polling booths stood at 75.06 % at 5 pm. “Polling was today conducted peacefully,” the election commission (EC) said in a statement in the evening.
The turnout in the sixth and fifth phases was 82% and 82.49% respectively. The highest, 86.11 %, was recorded in the second phase on April 1.
Voting occurred as the state posted its highest number of infections and deaths, at 15, 992 and 68, respectively. The eighth and last phase will be held on April 29 and campaigning for it ended on Monday. Results will be declared on May 2.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee cast her vote around 4pm in Kolkata. Earlier in the day, she targeted EC and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), citing adverse remarks made by the Madras high court on the poll panel over spike in Covid-19 cases.
“The court clearly said that ECI cannot shrug off its responsibility. The ECI has become the parrot of the BJP. It is because of them that Covid-19 cases have shot up,” Banerjee said at a virtual election rally.
BJP national president JP Nadda concluded the party’s campaign by addressing back-to-back virtual rallies.
“Mamata Banerjee fought the elections with a negative narrative but the electorate of Bengal took a positive approach and supported the BJP. The language Mamata Banerjee used against the Prime Minister and the union home minister and the way she distorted my name do not represent Bengali culture,” he said at a press conference.
CBI summons TMC’s Anubrata Mondal in cow smuggling case
Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) summoned TMC’s Birbhum district unit president Anubrata Mondal for questioning in the cow smuggling case, in which it has been alleged that cows from Bengal and other parts of India were illegally smuggled to Bangladesh for more than a decade. The notice served to Mondal on Sunday said he has to appear in person at the CBI’s Nizam Palace office in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Reacting to the CBI summon, CM Banerjee on Monday said Mondal was targeted to put her party in trouble in Birbhum.
“Kesto (Mondal’s nickname) is kept under surveillance during every election... Two CBI officers went to his house in Bolpur yesterday and asked him to appear before the agency on April 27. Why will he go when the elections are on?” said Banerjee.