It's game on in Bhabanipur: Didi widens winning gap in final round of counting
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was leading by 58,389 votes against her closest contender, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Priyanka Tibrewal, at the end of the 21st round of counting of votes polled at the byelection to Bhabanipur assembly constituency on Sunday.
Early trends show Mamata Banerjee was leading by 58,832 votes in the final round, securing victory in the bypoll, although the Election Commission was yet to officially confirm the data. The Trinamool Congress supremo was in the fray from the Bhabanipur assembly seat with BJP's Priyanka Tibrewal and CPM's Shrijeeb Biswas.
According to the latest data by the Election Commission, Mamata Banerjee got 84,709 votes against Priyanka Tibrewal's 26,320 votes while Shrijeeb Biswas got 4,201 votes at the end of the 21st round of counting for the Bhabanipur assembly bypolls.
The Trinamool Congress workers and supporters broke into celebrations outside the chief minister's residence as the margin by which Mamata Banerjee led grew with each round of counting.
Based on the votes counted so far, Mamata has secured 71.9% of the votes polled in the Bhabanipur assembly constituency while Priyanka Tibrewal managed only 22.29%.
However, state transport minister Firhad Hakim said Mamata Banerjee instructed party leaders not to allow any victory procession or rally in Kolkata and the districts. The message from the chief minister comes close on the heels of the Election Commission writing to the West Bengal government, asking it to ensure that no victory celebration or procession is carried out during or after the counting of votes for bypolls.
The bypoll to Bhabanipur assembly constituency was necessitated after Trinamool Congress MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay vacated the seat after the assembly elections earlier this year, to pave the way for party supremo Mamata Banerjee to contest the bypoll to retain her chief ministerial post.
Even though Trinamool Congress came back to power in West Bengal for the third consecutive time following a landslide victory in the assembly elections, Mamata Banerjee faced defeat in the Nandigram assembly constituency against her former protégé Suvendu Adhikari by a thin margin of 1,956 votes. A former state minister and a close aide of Mamata Banerjee, Adhikari switched to BJP ahead of the West Bengal assembly elections.
Mamata Banerjee has to win on any seat in the state to have the chance of becoming a member of the state assembly, and retain the chief minister's post, before November 5.
The BJP fielded Priyanka Tibrewal, the vice-president of the party's state youth wing, against the chief minister in the Trinamool Congress bastion. Tibrewal played a key role in the BJP’s battle in the Calcutta high court on alleged post-poll violence, which led a five-judge bench to order for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Tibrewal had contested from Entally seat in the assembly elections but lost to Trinamool's Swarna Kamal Saha by more than 58,000 votes.
Meanwhile, Priyanka Tibrewal wrote to the Calcutta high court ahead of the counting, casting aspersions over “post-poll violence”, and seeking preventive measures. A clash reportedly broke out between the supporters of the Trinamool Congress and the BJP on the day of polling.
Bhabanipur assembly constituency has always been a strong fort for the Trinamool Congress, and the party has been winning it consecutively since 2011 assembly elections.
Trinamool's Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay won the assembly polls from the Bhabanipur constituency by 28,719 votes earlier this year. But, Mamata Banerjee has crossed that margin as she was leading by 58,389 votes in the final round of counting.
Mamata had won the Bhabanipur assembly bypoll in 2011 by 52,213 votes and by 25,301 votes in 2016 elections.
Along with Bhabanipur, bypolls were also held in two other assembly constituencies in West Bengal, including Jangipur and Samserganj assembly constituencies on September 30. The Trinamool Congress was leading in all three seats, the latest data from the Election Commission show.
The counting for the bypolls began at 8am on Sunday amid tight security. Twenty four companies of central forces have been deployed at the counting centres, and the entire area has been put under CCTV surveillance. Poll officials were allowed inside the counting centre with only pen and paper and only the returning officer and observer are allowed to use phones.
Bhabanipur constituency will see 21 rounds of counting, while votes polled in Samserganj will be counted in 26 rounds and 24 rounds for the Jangipur constituency at Sakhawat Memorial School in Kolkata.