West Bengal assembly polls: 35 constituencies vote in final phase amid Covid-19 surge
West Bengal is conducting the eighth and the final phase of assembly elections with voters across 35 seats casting their ballots on Thursday to elect the next government amid a record surge in cases of the coronavirus disease in the poll-bound state.
Follow live updates on West Bengal voting here
Voters were seen queuing up outside polling booths in West Bengal as voting for the high-stake battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) began at 7am. Voting is being held at 11,860 polling stations spread over 11 assembly constituencies each in Murshidabad and Birbhum, six in Malda, and seven in Kolkata.
The final phase of voting in Bengal comes at a time when the eastern state is registering grim records in the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the Mamata Banerjee-led state logged 17,207 fresh Covid-19 cases, the highest-single day spike so far, pushing the tally to 793,552, according to a bulletin issued by the state health department. The fatalities related to the viral disease have gone up to 11,159 with 77 more deaths in a day.
Both major contenders, the BJP and TMC, have trained their guns at each other for holding massive campaign rallies despite the raging second wave of the pandemic. However, the campaign rallies remained a low-key affair before the final phase of West Bengal elections after the Election Commission banned roadshows and vehicle rallies in the state and noted that the Covid-19 safety norms were being flouted during campaigning. The poll body allowed no more than 500 people in election-related public meetings.
As West Bengal votes today, the poll panel said it would put in place measures to ensure strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols during the polling process, an official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
Taking cognisance of clashes that were reported in the state during the previous phases of the West Bengal assembly election the EC has heightened security measures for the final phase, the official added. The panel has decided to deploy at least 641 companies of central forces, including 224 in Birbhum district, in the eighth phase to ensure ‘free and fair’ voting, he said.
While Mamata Banerjee looks to retain the chief ministerial post for the third term, the BJP, which has not declared its CM candidate, has expressed confidence that it would win the election with a majority of at least 200 seats. The results of the 294-seat contest will be announced on May 2.